July 28, 2011, 9:46 p.m.
Egypt’s Democratic Transition Five Important Myths about the Economy and International Assistance was published by Legatum Institute and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in association with the Atlantic Council. The goal of the paper is to shape the conversation on Egypt's economy and how and when international assistance should be provided. The paper does this by looking at five myths frequently stated regarding the transition taking place in Egypt. The paper goes into detail on each of the five issues discussing the current state of Egypt and what is needed for success to be seen.
MYTH #1. EGYPT’S ECONOMY IS A BASKET CASE. WRONG.
MYTH #2. IT IS TIME TO CONCENTRATE ON POLITICS; ECONOMIC REFORMS HAVE TO WAIT. WRONG.
MYTH #3. KEY FISCAL PROBLEMS – SUCH AS SUBSIDIES – CANNOT BE TACKLED ANY TIME SOON. UNTRUE.
MYTH #4. THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT NEEDS BUDGET SUPPORT URGENTLY. APPARENTLY NOT.
MYTH #5. THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY HAS DONE ALL IT CAN DO TO HELP THE TRANSITION. UNTRUE.
What is the current state of affairs? What reforms are now economically necessary? What is politically feasible? How can external actors assist? How can those of us committed to Egypt’s democratic future avoid doing harm?
Finally, civil society, open public debate, and independent journalism are all crucial for the success of the economy, as well as the political transition. While many of the comparisons between the transitions in Central and Eastern Europe in the early 1990s and Egypt in 2011 are misleading, one lesson of the 1990s remains valid: a transition towards democracy and a free market economy is unlikely to succeed without broad public support and a popular understanding of its nature and importance. This can only occur in the context of a vibrant civil society engaged in a dialogue that will allow for broader ownership of the economic and political reforms that lie ahead. The international community can and should support the transfer of expertise from other parts of the world – not only Eastern Europe, but also South America, Turkey, and India – in the development of the institutions needed to open up public debate.