The big questions for Egypt’s political revolution seem to revolve around timing. When does the interim military government go back to the barracks? When should the constitution be amended? Voters have approved a referendum package that imposes presidential term limits and a few other reforms, but major changes are coming. Should they be made now, so that new elections (scheduled for this fall) will be held under the new constitution? Or should the elections come first, so that a new civilian government can tackle constitutional reforms with a popular mandate? Will new parties be ready for elections in a few months?
As daunting as these issues are, the economic questions are more dire for many Egyptians. Mubarak’s tight political control and the accompanying state corruption handicapped the Egyptian economy for decades. Party insiders and government officials found ample opportunity for personal gain in the state-controlled portions of the economy. A bloated public sector payroll and subsidies on food and fuel bought political support. Rising food prices had sparked protests in recent years, and the youth jobless rate was 25%.
Since the revolution, Egyptians haven’t seen the economic improvement they expected.
Second, while we’re on the topic: Have you checked out the PDT blog recently? A few months ago I wrote that PDT’s blog is one of the few organizational blogs that I read regularly. Most NGOs and donor agencies just use their blogs for thinly-disguised PR stories, but PDT’s blog has always tackled interesting aid debates and pushed ideas rather than fluff. PDT head honcho Scott Gilmore told me that he thought they could do even better than they were. So in the past month, under the guidance of their intrepid communications director Elmira Bayrasli, PDT has gotten more systematic about hosting commentary from their front-line staff and other aid/development bloggers. Here’s Elmira describing the new initiative. I’m happy to be part of the conversation.