angry penguin

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Brian Alleyne's weblog on culture, politics, and technology


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Egypt - a cautionary note
angry penguin
globalsociety

As I write, it seems the Egyptian military are trying to clear the square that has been the centre of the popular uprising; and they are going to dissolve the parliament. This is a worrying, but not unexpected development. Anyone with an ounce of democratic spirit could not have failed to be moved by the events of the past weeks in Egypt and Tunisia. Many of us hope to see the obnoxious regimes in places like Saudi Arabia come under pressure next. But in the cold light of day, we MUST all realise that the overthrow of a dictator is only the first in many steps required to buuild a democratic and economically just society. In the case of Egypt it is by no means clear what will happen next.

Egypt is facing a titanic economic crisis. With a population of 85 million, much of it young, a poorly managed economy run by a decrepit regime, and low human development index, it will require much more than change at the top for Egypt to meet the basic human needs and aspirations of all its people. By way of comparison, consider that more than two decades separate the Braizil of the dictators from the promising country it is today - an indication of the mountain the Egyptians have still to climb. Over the next five to ten years, resources will have to be found to invest in basic housing and infrastructure, to modernise agriculture, to upgrade the entire education system and to address pressing environmental issues. At the same time the political system must be reinvented and a secure basis laid for a pluralist democratic civil society. It is extremely unlikely that some cobbled together government of present or former military chiefs can archive much if indeed any of this.

People in Egypt and those of us watching are swept up in the euphoria of popular power. But popular power is futile without a clear political programme and the means to carry it thorough. Political democracy has always had complex linkages to economic development, and both have had tenuous linkages to improving general human welfare. Can Egypt find a way to juggle all of these? We shall see.


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