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The violent uprisings that have convulsed the Arab world since late 2010 appeared to bypass most of the region’s major energy exporting states. With the exception of Libya, the countries with the most virulent uprisings play minor roles in world markets. But the lack of unrest does not mean that the region’s national oil companies (NOCs) escaped unscathed. Regime reactions to the Arab Spring contributed to increased revenue and patronage demands on these firms as a way of counteracting political opposition. Several authors find that these political objectives are behind inefficient operations in NOCs relative to shareholder-owned counterparts. I argue that not only political objectives but also specific political events contribute to inefficiencies. Emerging data suggest that NOCs responded to the Arab Spring by increasing activities that have made them less efficient. These include contributions to state social welfare schemes, hiring, and delayed reforms of domestic energy subsidies. However, while new patronage may have set back recent improvements in efficiency, these activities may have also contributed to the political stability that was, for the most part, maintained.
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