As a result, the number of people over 60 years of age is extremely low in these two countries (1%), extremely far from Asian or European levels (20% in Western Europe for example).
The Maghreb also has a favourable demographic profile (6% over 65 years of age), which puts the necessity of implementing a quick lockdown into question. How is each of the states concerned reacting to the crisis?
- Morocco has set up a special fund for the management of Covid-19, the aim of which is to finance a livelihood income for the poorest, especially those from the informal sector. This fund has been generously endowed with 3 billion euros financed by the State (1 billion), the European Union (540 million euros), the King himself (200 million euros), the OCP group (Office chérifien des phosphates) (300 million) and all the large companies and fortunes of Morocco. The State will also set up a system of partial unemployment and a minimum monthly income of around 80 euros per person for a household of two people or less (120 euros for a household of more than four people).
- Algeria, which used to count among the wealthy Arab oil and gas countries, has over time tipped over to the poor side. The barrel of oil is currently worth $25, whereas the state budget was built on the basis of a $60 barrel (and it should be worth $110 to balance the budget). Algeria has not announced any economic support measures at this stage.
- Tunisia, like Algeria, does not have a partial unemployment scheme,but it does have a minimum income for the poorest. It benefits from a European Union grant of €300 million (0.8% of national GDP).
Geopolitics: the crises continue
Turning to the issue of geopolitics, the first question concerns the consequences of the health crisis on the other current crises.
A preliminary observation on this subject is that the pandemic has not changed the fundamental balance of power in the region. For example, the rift between Qatar and Turkey on one side, and between the Gulf States and Egypt on the other remains intact. In addition, the confrontation between Iran on the one hand and the United States and its regional allies on the other has not subsided, even though the United Arab Emirates and Oman have made additional humanitarian gestures towards Iran. For the time being, there is nothing to suggest that Covid-19 will profoundly call into question the current dynamics.
Two general remarks can be added to this. First the gravity of the crisis, which affects not only regional players but also major external powers, should lead to a general decline in the level of conflict and of violence. Conversely, these conditions may trigger risk-taking behaviours on the part of opportunistic players (militia groups, for example) or other players wanting to break out of what they perceive as a strategic deadlock (Iran?). Further observations can be made on the ground:
- The announcement of a ceasefire by Saudi Arabia may enable a de-escalation of the crisis in Yemen;
- In Syria, the ceasefire in Idlib, although precarious, is probably more durable (under Russian influence in particular) than it would have been in the absence of the health crisis. However, Turkey continues to reinforce its military means in Idlib and the Syrian regime has also carried out demonstrations of strength; in the areas controlled by the regime, warlords are taking the law into their own hands;
- In Libya, the situation is not too different: Russia, Turkey, and the local players have not switched paths. The ceasefire is not really respected;
- Finally, in Iran, and more generally in the possible areas of an Iranian-American or even an Iranian-Israeli conflict, politics on the brink of the abyss continue: no escalation for the moment, but resolution maintained on the side of the hard wing of the Iranian regime and its counterpart in Washington.
In the same vein, in Iraq and Syria we can see whole swathes of territory turning into real anarchy, favouring a resurgence of terrorist cells, including Daesh.
Geopolitics: the great international game
The second main geopolitical issue is the rivalry between great powers. It would be tempting to say that great power dynamics will not be affected by the health crisis. However, this crisis should accelerate the trends already that are already under way: the American disengagement, however relative, and what could be called "the declining returns on Russian investment in Syria". In fact, even Russia has achieved its initial objectives in Syria, and should logically seek to consolidate its gains through an international settlement. In the Gulf, Putin has just suffered a setback in the battle over the price of oil, which will certainly affect his regional standing.