The paradox of Tunisian water policy

One quality of life measure put Tunisia first in the Arab world.  If you look at water policy, the Tunisian government has long had a strong reputation.  Here is Wikipedia:

Tunisia has achieved the highest access rates to water supply and sanitation services among the MENA countries through sound infrastructure policy. 96% of urban dwellers and 52% of the rural population already have access to improved sanitation. By the end of 2006, the access to safe drinking water became close to universal (approaching 100% in urban areas and 90% in rural areas). Tunisia provides good quality drinking water throughout the year.

I've never been to Tunisia, but from readings I've found the country especially difficult to understand.  They've had a corrupt autocracy for a long time, but some areas of policy they get (inexplicably?) right.  And usually they are by far the least corrupt country in the Maghreb.  Dani Rodrik called the place an unsung development miracle.  Maybe that was exaggerating but for their neighborhood they still beat a lot of the averages and they've had a lot of upward gradients.  They've also made good progress on education.

And now this.  Perhaps it is no accident this is "the first time that protests have overthrown an Arab leader."  The lesson perhaps is that the path toward a much better world involves…small steps.  Civil society there is relatively strong and has been so for a while.  Democracy is probably not around the corner, but if you're studying social change it's worth spending a lot of time on why Tunisia and Jordan are often so much better run than the other Arab states.


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