Who survived the financial crisis unscathed?

While the advanced Western economies were being whacked by the Great Recession, three Middle East economies were making great advances, namely Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Kurdistan.

This perhaps surprising state of affairs is the subject of a recent lecture entitled The Exceptional Economies of the Middle East (website, iTunes), given by University of Michigan economist Raid al Khouri.

Al Khouri, a native of Jordan who resides in Lebanon, begins with a brief history of the region, from the breakup of the Ottoman Empire to the present. If you’re already up on the Sykes-Picot Agreement and other assorted imperialist plots of the early 20th century, you can skip the first 15 minutes of the podcast and dive into the main discussion.

Al Khouri’s survey of the region’s economies includes an entertaining comparison of Lebanon’s “let’s party” lifestyle with the buttoned up religious puritanism of Saudi Arabia. In al Khouri’s view, Saudi Arabia is booming because of its oil exports, and Lebanon because of tourism. Meanwhile Kurdistan, Iraq’s most peaceful province, is striding ahead because of its oil potential and massive infrastructure investment.

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