ANALYSIS

A selection of some of my writing for media, policy and wider audiences.

Dozens of Moroccan farmers have been ordered to leave the palm groves of El Arja, as Algeria asserts territorial claims to the area. In this article for Middle East Eye, Yasmine Zarhloule and I situte the event in the complex history of the borderland in question. We discuss how the people of the borderland have adjusted to living in the proximity of a contested political symbol, alongside the perspectives and demands that this has given rise to. 

April 5, 2021

Moroccan farmers' protests highlight the human toll of border dispute (Middle East Eye)

Dozens of Moroccan farmers have been ordered to leave the palm groves of El Arja, as Algeria asserts territorial claims to the area. In this article for Middle East Eye, Yasmine Zarhloule and I situte the event in the complex history of the borderland in question. We discuss how the people of the borderland have adjusted to living in the proximity of a contested political symbol, alongside the perspectives and demands that this has given rise to. 

In this article for Morocco's "L'Economiste", Soukayna Remmal and I discuss Morocco's informal economy, responding to a recent report by the HCP and arguing that suggested decreases in VAT rates will not have a substantial impact on informality. Instead, we argue for a more holistic look at Morocco's informal economy that recognises its structural role within the country's economy and development model. 

April 1, 2021

Does Morocco's tax system really drive its informal economy?

In this article for Morocco's "L'Economiste", Soukayna Remmal and I discuss Morocco's informal economy, responding to a recent report by the HCP and arguing that suggested decreases in VAT rates will not have a substantial impact on informality. Instead, we argue for a more holistic look at Morocco's informal economy that recognises its structural role within the country's economy and development model. 

Smuggling has historically been a solution for Maghrebi states, ensuring stability in often marginalised areas. This has changed in recent years, with increasingly securitised policies being put in place. These policies have had a significantly negative impact on borderland communities, leading to heightened unemployment, crime and migration, as Matt Herbert and I discuss in this report.

March 3, 2021

Divided they fall: frontiers, borderlands and stability in North Africa (ISS)

Smuggling has historically been a solution for Maghrebi states, ensuring stability in often marginalised areas. This has changed in recent years, with increasingly securitised policies being put in place. These policies have had a significantly negative impact on borderland communities, leading to heightened unemployment, crime and migration, as Matt Herbert and I discuss in this report.

In recent years, both Tunisia and Morocco have created new laws to simplify the registration of informal workers as self-employed workers. Does this spell good news for informal workers in the region? What are the differences between the laws and the challenges ahead? Othmane Bourhaba and I discuss in this article for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

January 11, 2021

Informal Work and Auto-Entrepreneurship Laws in the Maghreb: What can Tunisia learn from Morocco? (FES)

In recent years, both Tunisia and Morocco have created new laws to simplify the registration of informal workers as self-employed workers. Does this spell good news for informal workers in the region? What are the differences between the laws and the challenges ahead? Othmane Bourhaba and I discuss in this article for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

A discussion of the methodological and policy challenges around informal work done by women in India during the Covid-19 pandemic, written with Vanessa van den Boogaard, Aiman Haque and Paromita Sen of SEWA.

December 17, 2020

Women don’t value their own work (Indian Development Review)

A discussion of the methodological and policy challenges around informal work done by women in India during the Covid-19 pandemic, written with Vanessa van den Boogaard, Aiman Haque and Paromita Sen of SEWA.

I spoke to the podcast of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime about smuggling in North Africa, the effects of new border infrastructures, and their effects on border communities. 

July 07, 2020

Licit Economy Smuggling in the Maghreb and Sahel (Podcast)

I spoke to the podcast of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime about smuggling in North Africa, the effects of new border infrastructures, and their effects on border communities. 

This report, written together with Matt Herbert, offers a sizing and analysis of the developing trends around drugs in the Maghreb. It begins by detailing the production of narcotics in the Maghreb, including both cannabis and poppies. It focuses on the trafficking of these products, exploring the types of drugs that transit the region, the routes they take and the groups involved in their movement. The report then looks at drug consumption trends in the Maghreb, before detailing the impacts of narcotics on state capacity, security and public health and ending with brief recommendations.

June 01, 2020

A rising tide: Trends in production, trafficking and consumption of drugs in North Africa (GITOC)

This report, written together with Matt Herbert, offers a sizing and analysis of the developing trends around drugs in the Maghreb. It begins by detailing the production of narcotics in the Maghreb, including both cannabis and poppies. It focuses on the trafficking of these products, exploring the types of drugs that transit the region, the routes they take and the groups involved in their movement. The report then looks at drug consumption trends in the Maghreb, before detailing the impacts of narcotics on state capacity, security and public health and ending with brief recommendations.

Raising taxes on tobacco is the most effective tool to prevent rising tobacco-related deaths in Africa. Tobacco companies claim that higher taxes aren't worth it because they will cause more smuggling. In this

ICTD Policy Brief, I argue the opposite case.

May 22, 2020

De-linking Tobacco Taxation and Illicit Trade in Africa (ICTD)

Raising taxes on tobacco is the most effective tool to prevent rising tobacco-related deaths in Africa. Tobacco companies claim that higher taxes aren't worth it because they will cause more smuggling. In this

ICTD Policy Brief, I argue the opposite case.

"Formalising the Informal Economy" is increasingly presented as a policy option to raise government revenue in the Global South. In this piece for the ICTD, Vanessa van den Boogaard and I note that there are good reasons for skepticism and caution - and outline research still needed to better understand these dynamics

April 21, 2020

Unpacking Formalisation: The need for a new research agenda on taxation and the informal economy (ICTD)

"Formalising the Informal Economy" is increasingly presented as a policy option to raise government revenue in the Global South. In this piece for the ICTD, Vanessa van den Boogaard and I note that there are good reasons for skepticism and caution - and outline research still needed to better understand these dynamics

The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities in North Africa's economies - and the need for governments to include marginalised groups in fiscal policies. 

April 15, 2020

How the Coronavirus threatens North Africa's informal workers (Middle East Eye)

The pandemic has highlighted deep inequalities in North Africa's economies - and the need for governments to include marginalised groups in fiscal policies. 

In this blog, Vanessa van den Boogaard and I highlight the vulnerability of informal workers in the COVID-19 crisis, outline the reasons why many of the economic relief programs have not reached informal economies, and suggest policy measures that can support informal workers in the global south.

April 08, 2020

To fight Covid-19, only the formal economy is getting tax breaks. The informal economy may be asked to foot the bill (ICTD)

In this blog, Vanessa van den Boogaard and I highlight the vulnerability of informal workers in the COVID-19 crisis, outline the reasons why many of the economic relief programs have not reached informal economies, and suggest policy measures that can support informal workers in the global south.

In this article, Isabelle Werenfels and I analyse the upcoming Tunisian presidential election, examining how the death of President Essebsi has affected the campaign, analysing the candidates' diverse claims to continuity, and discussing how the election may shape the country's political institutions in years to come. 

August 23, 2019

Why Tunisia’s early presidential election will test its democracy (Washington Post/Monkey Cage)

In this article, Isabelle Werenfels and I analyse the upcoming Tunisian presidential election, examining how the death of President Essebsi has affected the campaign, analysing the candidates' diverse claims to continuity, and discussing how the election may shape the country's political institutions in years to come. 

Popular talking points suggest that smuggling in North Africa is occurring under the radar of its states, and is subverting them through corruption and the creation of porous borders that terrorist groups can exploit. Proposed solutions, including new border walls and internationally funded surveillance equipment, have focused on improving the surveillance capacity of states and raising the costs of cross-border movements. But this misunderstands the role states play in the region’s smuggling economies, I argue in this piece for the Washington Post's 'MonkeyCage'.

June 19, 2019

In North Africa’s borderlands, smuggling has helped keep a fragile peace. Now it’s under threat. (Washington Post/MonkeyCage)

Popular talking points suggest that smuggling in North Africa is occurring under the radar of its states, and is subverting them through corruption and the creation of porous borders that terrorist groups can exploit. Proposed solutions, including new border walls and internationally funded surveillance equipment, have focused on improving the surveillance capacity of states and raising the costs of cross-border movements. But this misunderstands the role states play in the region’s smuggling economies, I argue in this piece for the Washington Post's 'MonkeyCage'.

January 2019 marked the eighth anniversary of the end of the Ben Ali dictatorship – the celebrations however were marred by massive social protests. Opinions both in Tunisia and abroad differ about the state of Tunisia’s political development as it gears up for its second parliamentary and presidential elections since the adoption of the new constitution in 2014. While some consider its democratisation to be virtually complete, others fear a relapse into autocracy. Despite its considerable democratic achievements, Tunisia is in danger of developing into a hybrid system: part democratic, part authoritarian. This is not only due to the difficult economic and regional con­text. Critically, the political, economic and administrative networks of the old system, as well as persistent authoritarian practices and “old” rhetoric in politics and society, complicate the deepening of its fragile democracy. Tunisia’s international partners should make it their explicit objective to weaken these counter-currents, I argue in this article written with Isabelle Werenfels (SWP).

March 05, 2019

Is Tunisia Really Democratising? (SWP)

January 2019 marked the eighth anniversary of the end of the Ben Ali dictatorship – the celebrations however were marred by massive social protests. Opinions both in Tunisia and abroad differ about the state of Tunisia’s political development as it gears up for its second parliamentary and presidential elections since the adoption of the new constitution in 2014. While some consider its democratisation to be virtually complete, others fear a relapse into autocracy. Despite its considerable democratic achievements, Tunisia is in danger of developing into a hybrid system: part democratic, part authoritarian. This is not only due to the difficult economic and regional con­text. Critically, the political, economic and administrative networks of the old system, as well as persistent authoritarian practices and “old” rhetoric in politics and society, complicate the deepening of its fragile democracy. Tunisia’s international partners should make it their explicit objective to weaken these counter-currents, I argue in this article written with Isabelle Werenfels (SWP).

As it seeks to support “stability” in North Africa, the international community needs to think less about strong states, and more about strong opposition, I argue in this article for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). 

February 28, 2019

Stability in North Africa does not require stronger governments, but stronger opposition (SWP)

As it seeks to support “stability” in North Africa, the international community needs to think less about strong states, and more about strong opposition, I argue in this article for the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). 

In this issue of the 'Mediterranean Dialogue Series' I argue for a new approach towards the study and understanding of transnational organised crime in the Maghreb and the Sahel, together with Matt Herbert, Jihane Ben Yahia and Riccardo Fabiani. My argument focuses in particular on the relationship between organised crime and distributional politics in the region. 

January 28, 2019

Transnational Organized Crime and Political Actors in the Maghreb and Sahel (KAS)

In this issue of the 'Mediterranean Dialogue Series' I argue for a new approach towards the study and understanding of transnational organised crime in the Maghreb and the Sahel, together with Matt Herbert, Jihane Ben Yahia and Riccardo Fabiani. My argument focuses in particular on the relationship between organised crime and distributional politics in the region. 

Following the largest strike in Tunisia's modern history with more than 670,000 participants, I discuss its likely effects on Tunisia's political system in this column for Middle East Eye. 

January 17, 2019

As Tunisia's political consensus cracks, IMF austerity may hit the rocks (Middle East Eye)

Following the largest strike in Tunisia's modern history with more than 670,000 participants, I discuss its likely effects on Tunisia's political system in this column for Middle East Eye. 

The current discourse on building a 'level playing field' in Tunisia risks reframing the exploited of yesterday as the underperforming of tomorrow. My latest column for Middle East Eye looks at structural inequality and the argument for affirmative action:

November 07, 2018

Tunisia's deep structural inequality will take generations to unwind (Middle East Eye)

The current discourse on building a 'level playing field' in Tunisia risks reframing the exploited of yesterday as the underperforming of tomorrow. My latest column for Middle East Eye looks at structural inequality and the argument for affirmative action:

In this piece for Ce.S.I.'s edited volume on "The Libyan Maze - The Path to Elections and the Future of the Reconciliation Process", I discuss the effect of smuggling networks on local communities in Libya, highlighting their role for local political actors and armed groups. 

August 30, 2018

What’s the impact of smuggling networks on local communities in Libya? (Ce.S.I.)

In this piece for Ce.S.I.'s edited volume on "The Libyan Maze - The Path to Elections and the Future of the Reconciliation Process", I discuss the effect of smuggling networks on local communities in Libya, highlighting their role for local political actors and armed groups. 

Although Libya’s drop in migrants isn’t related to Tunisia’s increase, policy is needed on the issue, I argue with Matt Herbert in this article for the Institute for Security Studies.

August 29, 2018

Tunisia isn’t a migrant transit country – yet (ISS)

Although Libya’s drop in migrants isn’t related to Tunisia’s increase, policy is needed on the issue, I argue with Matt Herbert in this article for the Institute for Security Studies.

Rather than making North Africa safer, securitizing borders has raised the risk of instability along the region’s frontiers, where communities depend on smuggling, Matt Herbert and I argue for Carnegie's Sada. 

August 16, 2018

The Risks of Hardened Borders in North Africa (Carnegie)

Rather than making North Africa safer, securitizing borders has raised the risk of instability along the region’s frontiers, where communities depend on smuggling, Matt Herbert and I argue for Carnegie's Sada. 

“We let go if you let go,” reads a banner hoisted a few miles from Ras Ajdir, one of the main border crossings between Tunisia and Libya. For weeks, the border crossing has been blocked by Libyan authorities from one side, and Tunisian smugglers on the other side. I argue that the current stand-off points to a larger challenge for both the Tunisian and Libyan state: the absence of a unified plan on how to manage its border economies in a post-2011 world.

July 30, 2018

An economic malaise lies at the heart of Libya-Tunisia border standoff (Middle East Eye)

“We let go if you let go,” reads a banner hoisted a few miles from Ras Ajdir, one of the main border crossings between Tunisia and Libya. For weeks, the border crossing has been blocked by Libyan authorities from one side, and Tunisian smugglers on the other side. I argue that the current stand-off points to a larger challenge for both the Tunisian and Libyan state: the absence of a unified plan on how to manage its border economies in a post-2011 world.

More than half of North Africa’s labour force is employed in the informal economy, typically working without contracts, unions, or access to social insurance schemes. The intersection of economic marginality, underdevelopment, and abuse by law enforcement have made the region’s informal workers a powerful symbol of social injustice around which protest movements have rallied. I outline the role of the informal economy in the region's development models and point towards alternative routes for reform in this policy paper for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. 

July 16, 2018

Understanding informal economies in North Africa (Friedrich Ebert Foundation)

More than half of North Africa’s labour force is employed in the informal economy, typically working without contracts, unions, or access to social insurance schemes. The intersection of economic marginality, underdevelopment, and abuse by law enforcement have made the region’s informal workers a powerful symbol of social injustice around which protest movements have rallied. I outline the role of the informal economy in the region's development models and point towards alternative routes for reform in this policy paper for the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. 

Protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa are not confined by geographical boundaries: groups pick up strategies, technologies, slogans and songs from their counterparts across the region. Traditionally, Morocco has not been a noted exporter of protest movements. But this is likely to change...

June 13, 2018

Is Morocco’s boycott the future of political resistance in North Africa? (Middle East Eye)

Protest movements in the Middle East and North Africa are not confined by geographical boundaries: groups pick up strategies, technologies, slogans and songs from their counterparts across the region. Traditionally, Morocco has not been a noted exporter of protest movements. But this is likely to change...

My comments for France24 on the January 2018 austerity protests in Tunisia, discussing responsibility, the role of the IMF, and the impact of Tunisia's political 'consensus' strategy. 

January 11, 2018

Video: Tunisia - Country in a way a victim of its success (France24)

My comments for France24 on the January 2018 austerity protests in Tunisia, discussing responsibility, the role of the IMF, and the impact of Tunisia's political 'consensus' strategy. 

My op-ed on the January 2018 austerity protests in Tunisia, and how the current crisis exposes the weakness of Tunisia's post-revolutionary political landscape.

January 11, 2018

Tunisia protests: Another heavy dose of austerity (Middle East Eye)

My op-ed on the January 2018 austerity protests in Tunisia, and how the current crisis exposes the weakness of Tunisia's post-revolutionary political landscape.

On Sunday, 17 December, it will be seven years since Mohamed Bouazizi, an informal street vendor from Sidi Bouzid, took his own life. In the revolution that followed, he became a symbol of Tunisia's marginalised, those who had to create their own jobs, without rights, support or security.

The economic origins of the Tunisian revolution lie in predation and exclusion. Both came with their own figurehead – while Bouazizi became the symbol of the excluded, the dictator's wife, Leila Trabelsi, emerged as the symbol of a corrupt and predatory state elite.

One represented an image of a state that is painfully present, one of a state that is painfully absent...

December 16, 2017

Seven years on: Tunisia's legacies of neglect (Middle East Eye)

On Sunday, 17 December, it will be seven years since Mohamed Bouazizi, an informal street vendor from Sidi Bouzid, took his own life. In the revolution that followed, he became a symbol of Tunisia's marginalised, those who had to create their own jobs, without rights, support or security.

The economic origins of the Tunisian revolution lie in predation and exclusion. Both came with their own figurehead – while Bouazizi became the symbol of the excluded, the dictator's wife, Leila Trabelsi, emerged as the symbol of a corrupt and predatory state elite.

One represented an image of a state that is painfully present, one of a state that is painfully absent...

Between October 1st and November 8th, more Tunisians took to the seas than in 2015 and 2016 combined. Matt Herbert and I clear up common misconceptions about the migration surge, and connect it to the economic deterioration of Tunisia's South, and conclude that this trend will not present sustainable solutions to Tunisia's problems of regional equality and economic indignity.

November 27, 2017

Out of the Streets and Into the Boats: Tunisia’s Irregular Migration Surge (Atlantic Council)

Between October 1st and November 8th, more Tunisians took to the seas than in 2015 and 2016 combined. Matt Herbert and I clear up common misconceptions about the migration surge, and connect it to the economic deterioration of Tunisia's South, and conclude that this trend will not present sustainable solutions to Tunisia's problems of regional equality and economic indignity.

It has become increasingly clear that prevailing academic incentive structures have a potentially damaging and distorting effect on the nature of academic debates. Portia Roelofs and I use the example of a controversial recent journal publication to illustrate how deliberately provocative articles have the capacity to hack academia, to privilege clicks and attention over rigour in research. This is consistent with equally troubling trends in the wider news media; where equal prominence is seemingly always afforded to extreme opposing views, where actual progress in debates becomes impossible, and false dissent is created on issues which are overwhelmingly sites of academic consensus.

September 19, 2017

Clickbait and impact: how academia has been hacked (LSE Impact Blogs)

It has become increasingly clear that prevailing academic incentive structures have a potentially damaging and distorting effect on the nature of academic debates. Portia Roelofs and I use the example of a controversial recent journal publication to illustrate how deliberately provocative articles have the capacity to hack academia, to privilege clicks and attention over rigour in research. This is consistent with equally troubling trends in the wider news media; where equal prominence is seemingly always afforded to extreme opposing views, where actual progress in debates becomes impossible, and false dissent is created on issues which are overwhelmingly sites of academic consensus.

In an article for Jadaliyya, Mohamed Dhia Hammami and I outline the dangers of viewing recent protests and disagreements around corruption and reform in Tunisia as a conflict between a northern business elite and southern smugglers. We critique a recent report by International Crisis Group, and argue for a more comprehensive reform agenda in Tunisia. 

May 30, 2017

Corruption and Reform in Tunisia: The Dangers of an Elitist Analysis (Jadaliyya)

In an article for Jadaliyya, Mohamed Dhia Hammami and I outline the dangers of viewing recent protests and disagreements around corruption and reform in Tunisia as a conflict between a northern business elite and southern smugglers. We critique a recent report by International Crisis Group, and argue for a more comprehensive reform agenda in Tunisia. 

You may think that a smuggler in the Tunisian desert has nothing to do with your trip to the supermarket. You’re wrong.

March 24, 2017

From smugglers to supermarkets: the 'informal economy' touches us all (Guardian)

You may think that a smuggler in the Tunisian desert has nothing to do with your trip to the supermarket. You’re wrong.

I contrast Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011 and 2016, and look back at the original enthusiasm around social media and the Arab Uprisings.

February 11, 2016

How old-fashioned violence and repression thwarted the ‘Facebook revolution’ in Egypt (Free Speech Debate)

I contrast Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011 and 2016, and look back at the original enthusiasm around social media and the Arab Uprisings.

Die Schattenwirtschaft hält weite Teile Tunesiens am Laufen. Die Revolution hat die Situation verschärft.

November 20, 2014

Schwarzer Handel, goldenes Geschäft (Tagesanzeiger)

Die Schattenwirtschaft hält weite Teile Tunesiens am Laufen. Die Revolution hat die Situation verschärft.

Despite evidence that western companies sell surveillance software to repressive regimes like Egypt, there have been few attempts to restrict the export of such technologies. After all, the cyber surveillance industry is big business.

September 17, 2014

Imported Repression in the Middle East (Eurozine)

Despite evidence that western companies sell surveillance software to repressive regimes like Egypt, there have been few attempts to restrict the export of such technologies. After all, the cyber surveillance industry is big business.

Since the summer of 2011, Bassem Youssef’s satirical news show “Al-Bernameg” – which literally translates as “The Show” – was an institution on Egyptian television. The show ventured to test the limits of freedom of speech in the post revolutionary state, and its public struggle with state authorities and censorship were as much a part of its appeal as its comical hats and satirical songs...

June 10, 2014

Egypt: the show is over (Free Speech Debate)

Since the summer of 2011, Bassem Youssef’s satirical news show “Al-Bernameg” – which literally translates as “The Show” – was an institution on Egyptian television. The show ventured to test the limits of freedom of speech in the post revolutionary state, and its public struggle with state authorities and censorship were as much a part of its appeal as its comical hats and satirical songs...

With Stephan Roll
For many observers, the return of the military to the political scene in Egypt did not come as a surprise, as it regards itself as a guardian of public order, which was under threat from the protests and their effects. However, the way in which the generals overhauled the entire political system, through the removal of Mohammed Morsi and the suspension of the constitution, did cause some astonishment. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the coup was not at all a spontaneous reaction to the protests, or even an attempt at strengthening democracy, but instead a carefully planned return to power based on the military’s direct political interests...

July 16, 2013

Egypt: No Coup Without a Plan (Süddeutsche Zeitung)

With Stephan Roll
For many observers, the return of the military to the political scene in Egypt did not come as a surprise, as it regards itself as a guardian of public order, which was under threat from the protests and their effects. However, the way in which the generals overhauled the entire political system, through the removal of Mohammed Morsi and the suspension of the constitution, did cause some astonishment. It is now becoming increasingly clear that the coup was not at all a spontaneous reaction to the protests, or even an attempt at strengthening democracy, but instead a carefully planned return to power based on the military’s direct political interests...

© 2021 by Max Gallien