The Ruining of the Economist

I was shocked and surprised to read the latest issue of the Economist, which featured a series of articles about Egypt under the theme ” The ruining of Egypt”. As a leading magazine in economic and financial analysis, one would expect from the Economist to provide objective, informed analysis that focuses on evaluating and assessing the merits of Egypt’s economic policies over the past few months. Instead, the Economist’s articles eschew any semblance of objective analysis, focusing instead on spewing insults at the person of Egypt’s President. It’s indeed deplorable, and even disgraceful,  that such a professional Magazine resorts to using subjective, insulting  and politically motivated terms to characterize the economic policies of a country attributing it to the sole person of the head of State, let alone the poor analytical structure and superficial reading of the Egyptian economy and the nature of challenges it is facing. The pejorative terms and description used in the opening piece are clearly very poorly linked to the amalgamation of data found in the core of the following articles, highlighting what we see as an unfortunate trend towards stereotyping a vision of a region in chaos without any consideration to the facts and progress on the ground. 

In line with this biased stereotype, the magazine claims that President Sisi came to power through a “coup”, completely disregarding the will of the Egyptian people, who demonstrated in the millions for the ouster for the Muslim Brotherhood Morsi, or the millions who voted in fovour of the election of President Sisi in a landslide victory. It accuses him of “incompetence” for Egypt’s economic policies, overlooking that these policies are based on the advice of a group of prominent economic experts (“The Economic Group”) and Egypt’s well-established institutions. I concede that it is possible to differ, and even sharply disagree on the merits of these policies. This is all welcome when it is done in the spirit of constructive and informed criticism. After all, even the most prominent experts and economists disagree as to which economic policy to follow at which particular time. Unfortunately, the Economist did not make the effort to provide any thorough analysis or even superficial reference to those policies, instead it jumped to a hurried conclusion of incompetence .That being said, and welcoming any constructive opinion, it is important to reiterate that the Egyptian government in the form of a highly professional cabinet is mandated to set the  policies  considered most appropriate for Egypt. President Sisi does not micro-manage Egypt’s institutions and does not create economic policy in a vacuum; he is surrounded by institutions and consultants, an independent central bank and a cabinet of professionals that are in charge of decision-making in this area. The government remains accountable to parliament and to Egypt’s people, who have the final say as to what they consider sound policy and what they believe constitutes “incompetence”. The Economist’s misinformed and trite remarks indicate complete ignorance of the nature of this economic and financial decision-making process in Egypt.

Moving on with the same line of argument, the Economist ludicrously claims that Egypt’s economy is sustained only through cash injections from the Gulf and military aid from the US. This could not be farther from the truth. It seems the Economists failed to notice the decline of US aid to Egypt in recent years! Neither are we counting on help from anyone. While being mindful of the economic difficulties lying ahead in Egypt, and the structural challenges that the country is wrestling with, however, any deep and credible economic analysis would recall that the country has passed through an acute crisis since January 2011, which has and is still inflicting a high financial cost. Creating a new economic model is never easy and takes time. It is also crucial to highlight that the Government has come up with a comprehensive plan to tackle head on its macroeconomic imbalances, put the economy back on track, and establish a new foundation for inclusive and sustainable growth by 2030. The plan was endorsed by parliament, according to procedures laid down in Egypt’s new constitution, the most progressive in its history. In addition, the economic package under consideration with the IMF, and so sarcastically undermined by the Economist, is itself an indication that Egypt’s economy is moving on the right track and that difficult yet necessary decisions are being pursued. The result of arduous negotiations, this package should provide a clean bill of health for Egypt’s economic outlook, as well as a guarantee and incentive for foreign investors. 

There is a long list of accomplishments and success stories, across several economic sectors over the course of the last two years that no one can deny, yet the Economist fails to recognize them. Despite the unprecedented regional turmoil, international economic and trade drawbacks, and recent incidents that have taken a heavy toll on tourism and investment, The Egyptian government has managed to navigate through those challenges. Labour-intensive mega projects have been launched to leverage the fundamentals of the Egyptian economy and set solid foundation for economic growth. Vision 2030 for sustainable development has been endorsed and put into action. Major recovery in field of power generation and accessibility is well recognized and appreciated by Egyptians. Difficult and courageous decisions have been taken to reform subsidies policies and gas prices. However, it is important to understand that Egypt’s economic plan might not bear fruit overnight; its benefits go well beyond mere numerical economic returns. Social and political dimensions are taken into consideration. Lessons learned from the past are being applied to ensure that this time growth would benefit all Egyptians, and not just a few, so as to safeguard the political durability of the reform plan. This means, that while we are unequivocally committed to the principles of market economy, we aim to ensure that the burden of macroeconomic adjustments falls on those with the capacity to shoulder the impact, so as to protect low income brackets. 

As Egypt struggles with these difficulties, it is quite clear who our friends are, and whose support we can count on. It is obvious that the Economist has chosen to take sides with those bent on undermining Egypt. We hope that in the interest of maintaining its credibility, reputation and professionalism, the Economist will be less reductionist and biased in the future. It is extremely important for our partners as well, to be cognizant of the fact that Egyptians do not need to be patronized or insulted for their choices.

 

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