Arab Summer

There was a complete shift in outlook and influence this spring in the Middle East, as dictators in Tunisia and Egypt were overthrown, and uprisings rocked Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. For quite some time, the attitudes of protestors in the Middle East and spectators from around the world was one of hope, and many thought that the so-called “Arab Spring” would finally bring the Middle East in with the rest of the world. However, it has turned out that the only two countries that have successfully staged revolutions, Tunisia and Egypt, are not significant oil exporters, and their profits over the past five years are relatively small. As idealistically as we imagined the Arab Spring would be, without substantial economic improvement and integration, the political change will vanish. Other than the national oil companies and sovereign wealth funds, many Arab countries, such as Egypt and Tunisia, lack financial institutions and established educational opportunities. This lack of integration in the modern international economy creates a difficult climate for foreign investment. As such, the weakened economies in Tunisia and Egypt are ripe for a system of government that could restore economic stability to the region. The economic circumstances of Egypt and Tunisia are not different from other countries caught up in rebellion across history. Haiti, after years of rebellion was left in economic shambles, which only added to the terror of the Haitian earthquake last year. Other countries, such as the United States itself, had to pay reparations after their revolutions, leading to a seriously strained economy. While Tunisia and Egypt must pay no official reparations, it is extremely difficult to restart a country’s economy after a revolution. While a G8 Summit will take place soon to address possible foreign aid for Egypt and Tunisia to create a functioning democratic government, in some ways that is not sustainable. Unless Tunisia and Egypt can increase their GDP with foreign aid, these countries that were so admirable in the spring will only be a cash drain on the world economy by the summer. If Egypt and Tunisia could have large, multinational economies with more weight in the international market, then they could turn that back on after their successful revolution. Obviously, however, Egypt and Tunisia are not economic or industrial powerhouses. After World War II, the Marshall Plan reinvigorated West Germany and restored its economy to a very powerful state, and today, Germany is currently faring better than several other European countries. Egypt and Tunisia have not historically been productive economically. In many ways, they lack the infrastructure and the raw materials for a profitable economy, hence the arrival of Hosni Mubarak, the autocrat that made Egypt run, albeit unjustly. While something definitely needs to be done to protect the spark of political change in the Middle East, unless something happens quickly to help integrate and amplify the Egyptian and Tunisian economies, there may be no hope for the Arab Spring. Ben Krapels is a three-year Upper from Andover, MA and a columnist for The Phillipian.