Egypt: It’s the Economy, Stupid

The last chapter of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule has come to a close. But, as Heritage Vice President Kim Holmes contends in yesterday’s Washington Times, change shouldn’t end with new elections or a restructured political system. Economic liberalization must be part and parcel of the greater reform process.

The protesters in Tahrir Square aren’t looking for a Western-style democracy. A Pew poll taken in Egypt last year reveals that Egyptians generally prefer a democracy, but they also support vividly anti-Western, Islamist policies—such as executing Muslims who change religion (84 percent) and stoning adulterers (82 percent). As Holmes asks, if the protestors are not really looking for liberal democracy, what is motivating them?

They are tired of a weak economy that sustains poverty, not prosperity. The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal’s latest Index of Economic Freedom ranks Egypt 96th out of 179 countries. Chronic, double-digit unemployment plagues the country, and inflation is running at 12 percent per year. As Holmes puts it, Egypt’s economy is “dysfunctional.”

Elections alone cannot guarantee liberty and prosperity. As Egypt moves forward, liberalizing reforms must reverberate—like the crowd’s jubilation when Mubarak stepped down—throughout its political system and economy, or Egypt’s steps toward greater freedom will be for naught.

Scott Nason is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit:

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