The Dynamics of Business Interest Group Advocacy on Economic Policymaking

While the Arab awakening has impacted the political economies of Arab states differently, the message that state-business relations can no longer afford to rely on pre-existing models of business advocacy has reverberated across the region.  Rent-seeking, cronyism, patronage, and state capture have long been―to varying degrees—all features of state-business relations in the Arab world.  In post-uprising countries, the rise and fall of regimes, the adoption of new constitutions, the holding of theoretically more open legislative elections, the emergence new interest groups and a more scrutinizing public are all dynamics that are likely to influence the mechanics of policymaking, and with it, legacy systems of private sector advocacy.  While it is still too early to ascertain with certainty precisely how older business advocacy models might evolve to adapt to new realities, or how soon such adaptations might occur, the dynamics have already changed—particularly with regards to ‘state capture’—where challenges to pre-existing networks have paralleled challenges to incumbent regimes.  Combining a desk study with extensive field interviews with key persons from the business sector, government and civil society in both Egypt and Tunisia, the research makes a preliminary examination of the initial attempts at policy advocacy by business interest groups during the transitions.  In doing so, a deeper understanding of how those dynamics seem to have changed thus far, as well as an initial assessment of whether or not state capture has, perhaps, come to an end in any of the countries studied is made.  Finally, a brief set of policy recommendations are presented on ways and means of improving advocacy processes so that national business interests might be better reflected in the economic policymaking calculus.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.