Expert Reactions: Nasser Saidi on the challenges ahead for Egypt

Rounding up our thought provoking series of reactions on the current state of Egypt; we spoke to the former Lebanese Minister of economy and industry, Nasser Saidi. He suggested economic factors have played a big role in encouraging protest, and remain a pertinent challenge for whatever government may emerge.

Egypt’s already fragile political transition has now become more uncertain, with the forcible removal of its first democratically elected president from office by the army. Will a new government be more inclusive, more consensus-building than the Morsi government which was dominated by a Muslim Brothers political agenda? Inclusiveness, broader political representation with less extremism will be required to undo the damage to the country’s institutions.

It is important to note that Morsi and his government failed in large measure due to their mishandling and neglect of the economy. A depreciating Egyptian pound, rising inflation, a budget deficit reaching 12% of GDP, declining in real wages, rising youth unemployment all signal growing macroeconomic instability. Investment – both domestic and foreign – plummeted and job creation was static. In fact jobs were destroyed. The 1.5 million new young entrants into the Egyptian labour force over the past two years are despairing. Expectations had been high that a post-Mubarak era would bring improved economic conditions and a ‘trickle down’ of economic benefits. There were bright promises but dismal performance. We should not be surprised that youth ended up once more in Tahrir square. The daunting task facing the President-elect and a new government will be to manage expectations and deliver in a short honeymoon period.

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