Dean Rohrer

Why Egypt Should Worry China

The revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, and protests elsewhere in the Arab world, largely reflect the fact that the benefits of growth have failed to trickle down to disaffected youth. China, with its armies of unemployed university graduates and poorly treated migrant workers, should take note.

BERKELEY – A strictly economic interpretation of events in Tunisia and Egypt would be too simplistic – however tempting such an exercise is for an economist. That said, there is no question that the upheavals in both countries – and elsewhere in the Arab world – largely reflect their governments’ failure to share the wealth.

The problem is not an inability to deliver economic growth. In both Tunisia and Egypt, the authorities have strengthened macroeconomic policy and moved to open the economy. Their reforms have produced strong results. Annual growth since 1999 has averaged 5.1% in Egypt, and 4.6% in Tunisia – not Chinese-style growth rates, to be sure, but comparable nonetheless to emerging-market countries like Brazil and Indonesia, which are now widely viewed as economic successes.

Rather, the problem is that the benefits of growth have failed to trickle down to disaffected youth. The share of workers under the age of 30 is higher in North Africa and the Middle East than in any other part of the world. Their economic prospects are correspondingly more limited. University graduates find few opportunities outside of banking and finance. Anyone who has traveled to the region will have had an experience with a highly literate, overeducated tour guide.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/InrmlYq;

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.