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After Arab Spring, The Price Of Revolution Is Slow Economic Growth

Egypt and Tunisia began 2011 with a revolutionary bang. But over the course of the year their respective economies have gone flat. Leaders from the Arab Spring countries know that stoking economic growth may be the best chance to make democracy last for t

A recent protest in Cairo over university fees (Gigi Ibrahim)
A recent protest in Cairo over university fees (Gigi Ibrahim)

Nine months after the first buds of the so-called "Arab Spring" blossomed, the two countries that led the uprising – Egypt and Tunisia – are facing a painful economic reality. Tourism, one of the most significant sources of income, has collapsed. Several other sectors have failed to take off. Did anyone calculate the price for freedom?

Egypt"s economy expanded a solid 5.1% in 2010. But so far this year, growth is just 1.2%, with the post-revolutionary slowdown expected to extend through 2012. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts growth of just 1.8% for next year.

The situation in Tunisia is similar. Growth is expected to be at a standstill in 2011, but could bounce back next year – to 3.9%. The exception to the rule is Iraq, whose economy is rising from the ashes after being devastated by the drawn-out war. The IMF forecasts growth in Iraq at about 9.6% in 2011 and 12.6% in 2012.

What can countries involved in the Arab Spring do to get their economies on the right track? Leaders from Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere addressed that very question during a recent series of meetings of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

During a seminar organized by the IMF entitled " Beyond the Arab Spring: Restoring Economic Confidence, Meeting Social Needs," Tunisian Finance Minister Ayed Jalloul noted just how far-reaching the challenge was. "As of now, the government is the country's main employer," he said. "It's high time people launched their own projects. It means that the government must act with the utmost transparency. Otherwise Tunisians could start doubting the fundamental values of democracy. "

Mr. Jalloul said measures are being taken to encourage entrepreneurship and help students once they leave university. In Tunisia, unemployment among recent graduates is roughly 40%. "A full 85% percent of Tunisia's industrial production comes from small and medium-sized companies. They are the ones we should be helping," he said.

Shaukat Tarin, advisor to the chairman of Silkbank Ltd. in Pakistan, deems it a priority for the governments of Arab countries to balance their budgets and to create the conditions for the private sector to supply both credit and capital risk insurance. "My country's main problem is its lack of financial assets," said Jalloul.

Will the U.S. keep its promises ?

Ahmed Galal, the Egyptian director of the Economic Research Forum in Giza, expressed serious concerns about the new government's ability to institute vast macroeconomic reforms. "Our transitional government lacks the legitimacy," he warned. "We are currently rewriting the Constitution. Our priority is to ensure fair political leadership that relies on institutions working within a check-and-balance system. "

Internationally speaking, countries in the West and Middle East have promised to help the Arab Spring countries with up to $38 billion in loans issued by international development banks. But it's hard to know if the banks will keep their promises.

As for the United States, President Barack Obama had given his word that he would forgive $1 billion off the Egyptian debt. A Senate commission has just adjusted this help downwards, limiting it to $500 million.

The U.S. Congress has become more hesitant when it comes to assisting countries that were affected by the Arab Spring, particularly because they fear American financial assistance could end up benefiting Islamist movements. President Obama seems to feel differently. Last month, he appointed a diplomat, William Taylor, to handle the aid destined for Arab countries.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Gigi Ibrahim

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Influencer Union? The Next Labor Rights Battle May Be For Social Media Creators

With the end of the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the creator economy is the next frontier for organized labor.

​photograph of a smartphone on a selfie stick

Smartphone on a selfie stick

Steve Gale/Unsplash
David Craig and Stuart Cunningham

Hollywood writers and actors recently proved that they could go toe-to-toe with powerful media conglomerates. After going on strike in the summer of 2023, they secured better pay, more transparency from streaming services and safeguards from having their work exploited or replaced by artificial intelligence.

But the future of entertainment extends well beyond Hollywood. Social media creators – otherwise known as influencers, YouTubers, TikTokers, vloggers and live streamers – entertain and inform a vast portion of the planet.

✉️ You can receive our Bon Vivant selection of fresh reads on international culture, food & travel directly in your inbox. Subscribe here.

For the past decade, we’ve mapped the contours and dimensions of the global social media entertainment industry. Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, these creators struggle to be seen as entertainers worthy of basic labor protections.

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