By Fadhel Kaboub
Despite all the heated public debates that we have been witnessing in Egypt since the January 2011 uprisings, very little attention has been given to the root causes of the country’s deepest economic problems. Understandably, as a country moves towards democracy, it must address all the concerns about freedom of expression, religious rights, women’s rights, security and justice sector reforms, anti-corruption laws, political pluralism, elections, and constitutional reform. However, it is equally important to recognize that regardless of the political affiliation of the new government (Muslim Brotherhood, secular, or military), it must craft a long-term policy agenda to address the root causes of Egypt’s economic problems. Failure to do so will be catastrophic not only for the economy, but also for the creation of a secure and stable democratic society.
By Fadhel Kaboub
(Cross-posted from Al-Ahram)
I read Niveen Wahish’s article ‘Less is more’ (Al-Ahram Weekly, 3-9 November) with a great sense of frustration about the prevalence of the conventional wisdom that tax revenues finance government spending and that “borrowing” is inherently destabilising. If Egypt is going to lead the way in a new era in the Middle East, it must abandon the “sound finance” mythology, which is a relic of the gold standard, and embrace a model of true financial sovereignty. A financially sovereign country prints its own currency, collects taxes in that same currency, and most importantly issues government bonds that are only denominated in that same sovereign currency. As such, Egypt can finance all the national priorities that its people demand. A national debt is always manageable under a flexible exchange rate system and an adequate agricultural and industrial policy. Egypt’s most valuable assets are its people and their ingenuity. The country must also harness support from and cooperation with like-minded nations that are interested in fair trade amongst equals rather than neo-colonialist subjugation. The real burden on Egypt’s economy is the odious debt that was incurred under the Mubarak regime. This debt must be repudiated in the same way that Iraq’s and Ecuador’s debt were. Debt cancellation (not forgiveness) is the least that the West can do today to make up for the ills that Mubarak and his Western supporters have done to the people of Egypt.