The G8 Summit, the Arab Revolutions and the Ethics of Economic Aid

It’s now more than five months since the so-called Arab Spring started in Tunisia. Since then, we’ve seen the toppling of two dictators (Tunisia and Egypt), the intensifying of conflict in three other countries (Libya, Yemen and Syria) and the ongoing unrest in a number of others (Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Algeria).

Whilst Europe and the USA were slow to engage positively with the Tunisian and to a lesser extent the Egyptian revolutions, they are now trying to make up for lost opportunity by being more directly involved in the current civil war in Libya and more explicit condemnation of the Yemeni and Syrian handling of the popular protests.

Most seriously, however, has been the G8’s economic package for Tunisia and Egypt announced yesterday, 27 May.

I say disappointing, because what these fragile economies need right now is not more debt (more than $20 Billion for Egypt and Tunisia over the next two years) and an even larger debt-servicing bill, but more direct investment and perhaps a generous gesture that minimises the current debt burden for these countries.

The current debts carried by these countries were accumulated by the deposed corrupt regimes and were not used to create job or generate wealth for all but only to the benefit of few. One could argue that ethically it is not much to demand that such legacy ought to be wiped clean so that the economies of Tunisia and Egypt can have some breathing space ahead of significant economic challenges that await them over the coming years.

Fethi Mansouri