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Posts tagged ‘Egypt’

Forget the Coup: Egypt’s Economy Is the Real Problem

Any new permanent government will face the choice Morsi had but never made: market economic reforms on the one hand and a command-and-control statist economy on the other.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman is a frequent contributor)

Egypt’s political dilemmas are based, in important part, on its economic dilemmas. But since the overthrow of the Morsi government, far less attention has been paid to crucial economic issues than the political and constitutional conflicts. But economic issues–and the lack of a legitimated economic vision–have been as much a cause of the unrest, change and uncertainty in Egypt, and during both the Mubarak and Morsi tenures. And they may be more intractable.

Any new permanent government will face the choice Morsi had but never made: between market economic reforms on the one hand, led by economists and business people to promote growth, jobs, and trade, and a command-and-control statist economy on the other, which provides subsidies for essentials like energy and staples like bread, rice, and sugar–and also provides sinecures for ex-military officers. Part of the problem is that “liberalizing” reforms–there have been three waves since the end of Nassar’s regime than 40 years ago–are perceived as helping the rich and reflecting crony capitalism, rather than raising Egypt as a whole.

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Egypt’s Economic Winter

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman Jr.

(This article first appeared on TheAtlantic.com, where Ben Heineman writes frequently)

The international media have made a huge story out of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s power-consolidating decrees and the balloting on his proposed constitution. How the fundamental political disputes — between factions of the religious and secular, Islamic and Christian, and civilian and military, and between rich and poor and urban and rural — will be resolved in the Middle East’s most populous nation is seen as a harbinger for the political impact of the Arab Spring.

A companion story has received much less mainstream media attention: Egypt’s escalating economic crisis since the Tahrir Square uprising. Yet the question of whether and how Egypt deals with these economic issues is deeply intertwined with the salient political questions, and has significant implications for the future. Indeed, a lack of economic opportunity was arguably as significant a cause of the Egyptian “revolution” as political repression. Read more

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Israel faces the threat of the weak

Ehud Eiran

By Ehud Eiran

Former Associate and Research Fellow, International Security Program, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs 

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the Egyptian revolution, Israelis watch with concern the instability around them.  In a Jan. 23 op-ed on ynetnews (the news site of Israel’s popular daily Yedioth Ahronoth), I argued that these concerns are not only new temporally, but also new in their nature.

Rather than fearing the strength of their foes, Israelis should be concerned about their foes’ weakness. Israeli deterrence will face severe limitations if the central authorities in neighboring countries lose control. More immediately, the difficulties of the Egyptian (and possibly Syrian) regimes to exert effective authority in the border regions with Israel  can create new opportunities for non-state elements (terror, drugs, illegal migrants) to threaten Israel. Read more

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Why Egypt’s Economy Matters

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

By Ben W. Heineman Jr.

Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

Note: This commentary first appeared on TheAtlantic.com.

The economy was an important cause of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow. The Mubarak regime failed to deal with poverty (20 percent of the population), unemployment (more than 10 percent), lack of opportunity for a bulging youth cohort (90 percent of the unemployed were between 15-24), inflation (about 12 percent in total consumer prices, with food higher), and widespread corruption.

Since Mubarak’s departure, in February, the Egyptian economy has significantly worsened, with the military leaders failing to address the burgeoning issues. Read more

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Vigilance essential in coming months

By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen

By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen

The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum

By Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

We must remain especially vigilant over the next weeks and months. There is likely to be a global spike in terrorist threats as al-Qaeda digs deep in increasingly desperate attempts to avenge their leader’s death and reestablish their relevance on the world stage.

Of most concern, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the presumptive new leader of the group, may try to make good on his 2008 promise to mount a mass casualty attack on US soil. Al-Qaeda’s ability to do so will depend on what concrete plans, if any, that they already have in motion; the group’s capacity is likely to continue diminishing over time. Read more

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Welcome spring winds in Cairo

By Gerard Russell

By Gerard Russell

The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum

By Gerard Russell

2010 Fellow, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Harvard Kennedy School

Cairo is often shrouded in polluted fog — coloring the vision just slightly, and noticeable especially to the visitor.  A familiar rasping at the back of the throat is usually the way I can feel it when I first arrive.  After a while I stop noticing it; it’s only when I can smell fresh air, when a spring wind blows through the city, that I realize how polluted the air normally is.

Such a wind, metaphorically speaking, has blown through Cairo since I was last there.  The air has been cleansed.  There is a new sense of freedom, and everyone is talking about the candidate they favor, or are against, and discussing the problem of corruption and the defects of the educational system, in a way they never dared to before. Read more

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The power of the Shamal

By Richard A. Clarke

By Richard Clarke

Having wandered recently among the orange-red dunes of the Arabian desert, my mind is filled with analogies about shifting sands, blurred vision, and the stark clarity that can come when the winds settle down.  The winds on this peninsula and in the nearby Sahara are still blowing, the new dunes still being formed, but we can say some things about the shape of the Arab world that will emerge.

Unless the United States and its Arab allies are unusually diligent, skilled, and lucky, the new configuration will be less supportive of US interests, at least in the short term. That is not a judgment about what we should have done or should do now, nor is it meant to be a justification for the regimes that are being swept from power. It is meant only to be an analytical conclusion. Read more

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The Power Problem: Stephen M. Walt on what the U.S. should do about Libya

The Power Problem is an occasional series of mini-forums on Power & Policy, asking specialists from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School to suggest policy responses by the United States to pressing world issues. We invite readers to respond with comments.

We asked our experts: What should the United States do now that Qaddafi is digging in? And what is the gravest risk for the United States in the Libyan crisis?

Read other views from Nicholas Burns and Rami Khouri.

By Stephen M. Walt

By Stephen M. Walt

By Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Affairs; Faculty Chair, International Security Program

It is impossible to look on events in Libya without wanting to do something. On one side is a familiar villain—Muammar Qaddafi—who is using ill-gotten wealth, a well-armed military, and foreign mercenaries in a brutal attempt to maintain his hold on power.  On the other side is a rebel army that rose up in response to the recent upheavals in Tunisia and Egypt and Qaddafi’s own misguided rule.  If we could wave a magic wand and cause him and his family to depart, we’d do it in a heartbeat. Read more

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The Quest for Economic Legitimacy in Egypt

By Ben Heineman

The Power & Policy Fellows’ Forum

By Ben Heineman

Since Anwar Sadat took over from Gamal  Abdel Nasser more than 40 years ago, Egypt has gone through episodic waves of economic liberalization, from privatization to changes in fiscal/monetary policy to sectoral restructuring.

However, during this period of start-stop economic reform, there was no meaningful reform of the constitutional structure and the political system. Read more

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The Power of the Ikhwan

By Richard Clarke

By Richard Clarke

Sitting on the sidelines as students and workers poured into Tahrir Square for the initial demonstrations that ultimately brought down Hosni Mubarak were the well organized cells of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, known in Arabic as the brothers, or the Ikhwan. Their leadership decided to hold back and see what developed in the protests. Why?

Among the many reasons considered by the Ikhwan leaders was probably the simple fact that the protesters in the square were not their people.  Many of the protesters were secular democrats, some were even Coptic Christians. A large number were women. The Ikhwan has always stood for an Islamic religious state, where the government would enforce strict interpretations of Islamic law, not a place for secularists, Christians, or activist women. For decades their view of democracy had been as one possible means to gain power, but in the sense that the Algerian Islamists viewed elections: “one man, one vote, one time.” Read more

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