The Problem with Egypt

Two years following the initial Arab Spring protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egyptian progress toward reform and liberty is a bit stagnant.  But it's moving, albeit slowly, forward.

For years, Egyptian bureaucrats have protected their turf, but with mounting mountains of debt, something must change.  It doesn't seem that new President Mohammad Morsy is the one who wants to (or can?) initiate that change. This is the perspective of Foreign Policy Magazine's Charles Holmes.  Holmes writes:
Morsy's intrinsically conservative government appears just as authoritarian as its predecessors, and the opposition has failed to build a political organization or define its agenda. Meanwhile, the retrograde visions of the radical Islamist opposition threaten to pull Egypt even further from the modern world.
Perhaps things--particularly from an economic perspective--will have to get worse before they get better.

Not much of the national budget is spent on education.  What paltry amount is spent goes mostly to pay the salaries of bureaucrats.  This shortcoming still has a tendency to turn out low-grade automatons who are more easily made to join the military and simply do what their government tells them to do without much thought.

The rich get richer, and the poor get poorer in Egypt as well.  If you belong to the small ruling clique at the top of the Egyptian food chain (government, military, etc.), Holmes points out, existing government mechanisms allow for an "exer[tion of] power and influence through the gradual redistribution of the nation's wealth to a small clique surrounding the ruling establishment."

Twenty percent of Egyptians live below the poverty line, and that number is increasing.  Waiting in the wings, with a litany of changes that must be made before Egypt can receive almost $5 billion in aid money, is the International Monetary fund.  I suspect that with such aid the IMF creates a moral hazard upon which Egypt knows it can eventually depend, and that thus the International Monetary Fund is part of the problem.

Is all lost?  Not by any means.  It will be a long slog toward liberty, but the protests of two years ago show the ingenuity of a significant number of Egyptians.  I agree with the closing paragraph of Holme's article:
The 18 days that brought down Mubarak demonstrated that Egypt is capable of achieving the unthinkable. Today, more of the honesty, courage, and soul-searching that stirred the public's imagination during those days will be required to bring an end to the old, dying political order in Cairo.


 

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