Banking on the Jasmine Revolution

Rob Daly, Sell-Side Technology

The last time the world saw uprisings similar to what is now being called the Jasmine Revolution—massive protests in the Arab world, starting with Tunisia—was when Eastern Europe rejected communism in the early 1990s. Before that, it was the European revolutions of 1848 when multinational empires fell like dominoes and nation states rose to take their place.

The big question is what this will mean for the financial markets and their structures after the dust settles. Demands from Tunisia and Cairo, and now the island kingdom of Bahrain, indicate that these movements are about a more equitable distribution of wealth and an establishment of a true middle class in these nations—something that many from inside and outside the region have been wanting for a long time.

Until the situations in these nations calm down, and law and order are restored, the fate of the local markets is up in the air.

In Egypt, now that the army has disbanded parliament, discarded the current constitution, taken control of the nation and decided to build a new political infrastructure from scratch, it has ensured that the country will face a much longer period of instability than if it had simply reformed its previous systems.

I'm a cynic when it comes to the Egyptian army. Since the overthrow of King Farouk in 1953, all the country’s leaders—Muhammad Naguib, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak—have been military officers.

Until the Jasmine Revolution winds down, plans for investment and market structure improvements around the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf will probably be put on hold. Hopefully, democracy will flourish and the region’s markets will be further liberalized.

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