Economy

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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Running of the Bulls in Tafalla, northern Spain

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Developing: Sudan leaders arrested amid military coup reports: Soldiers have arrested several members of Sudan's transitional government as well as civilian leaders, and Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has reportedly been put under house arrest, in what the information ministry called a military coup. Pro-democracy protesters have taken to the streets of the capital city Khartoum where there are reports of gunfire and clashes.

• Colombia's most wanted drug lord to be sent to U.S.: Colombia's most dangerous drug trafficker, known as Otoniel, was caught after a joint army, air force and police operation and faces extradition to the U.S. He led the country's largest criminal gang, and was on the U.S. most wanted list for years.

• Xi speech marks China's UN anniversary: China's President Xi Jinping marked the 50th anniversary of Beijing's entry into the United Nations with a speech calling for greater global cooperation, adding that issues like climate change, terrorism and cyber security needed multilateral solutions. Taiwan was not mentioned.

• German ISIS bride jailed for crimes against humanity: A German court has sentenced a German woman and former member of the Islamic State to 10 years in prison for letting a 5-year-old Yazidi enslaved girl die of thirst in Iraq. The case is one of the world's first trials to prosecute a war crime against the Yazidis.

• COVID update: The Beijing marathon scheduled next weekend has been postponed until further notice as China seeks to stamp out Delta variant outbreak and return to zero cases ahead of the Winter Olympics next February. Meanwhile, coronavirus cases in Eastern Europe have surpassed the 20 million mark as the region fights against its worst outbreak since the pandemic started and vaccination efforts lag.

Goodbye, Gunther: U.S. actor James Michael Tyler, best known for his role as the barista Gunther on the TV show Friends, has died at 59 of prostate cancer.

• Sneakers record: A pair of Michael Jordan's white-and-red Nike shoes, which he wore during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls in 1984, sold for $1.47 million — a new record price for sneakers at auction.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The end of a boss," titles Colombian daily El Espectador, reporting on the arrest of drug lord Dairo Antonio Usuga, known as Otoniel, who had led Colombia's largest criminal gang and had been on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's most wanted list for years. He was captured in a raid and will be extradited to the U.S.


#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$57,789

A Georgia man is being prosecuted for wire fraud after spending most of his business's COVID relief loan to buy one Pokémon trading card for $57,789.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

How Thailand's "Lèse-Majesté" law is used to stifle all protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

👑 Thailand's Criminal Code "Lèse-Majesté" Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family. But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

🚨 The recent report "Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand," documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations." The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

💻 The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them. Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com


📣 VERBATIM

"Children are going to die. People are going to starve."


— The United Nations warns that Afghanistan verges on a "total breakdown" as millions of Afghans, including children, could die of starvation unless urgent action is taken by the international community. The agency calls for the release of frozen assets to avoid economic and social collapse, despite concerns over the Taliban government. A recent report said that about 97% of Afghanistan's population may sink below the poverty line, and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley warned that more than half of Afghanistan's population of 39 million were facing acute food insecurity and "marching to starvation" in comparison to 14 million two months ago.

🕌 🔍 IN OTHER NEWS

Dutch cities have been secretly probing mosques since 2013

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talked to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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