The Economic Blunders Behind the Arab Revolutions

(Wall Street Journal) David P. Goldman - Half a century of socialist mismanagement has left Egypt and Syria unable to meet the basic needs of their people, with economies so damaged that they may be past the point of recovery in our lifetimes. It may not be within America's power to reverse their free falls; the best scenario for the U.S. is to manage the chaos as best it can. Egypt produces barely half of the total caloric consumption of its 90 million people. The poorer half of the population survives on subsidized food imports that stretch a budget deficit close to a sixth of the country's GDP, about double the ratio in Greece. With the global rise in food prices, Egypt's trade deficit careened out of control well before the overthrow of Mubarak. If Egypt counted its people the way the U.S. does, its unemployment rate would be well over 40% instead of the official 13% rate. In Syria, the government's incompetent water management - exacerbated by drought beginning in 2006 - ruined millions of farmers before the May 2011 rebellion. The collapse of Syrian agriculture left millions landless, many of them available and ready to fight. The writer is a fellow at the Middle East Forum and the London Center for Policy Research.

2013-07-18 00:00:00

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