Egypt: Its the Economy (Food, Fuel), Stupid...

For the last week, the world media has turned its focus on the ongoing protests in Egypt and other countries in the region. Many ask why there are thousands of young people taking to the streets. Democracy? Free Speech? Israel? Dictators? US foreign policy? Like in Tunisia, based on the reaction of the Egyptian protesters interviewed by the media, all of the above play a role.

While most Westerners who don't usually follow news out the Middle East may have initially thought the upheavals had something to do with Islamic fundamentalism, most protesters are not only complaining about US-backed dictators who suppress free speech, but also about many of the same issues Americans are worried about - high unemployment and skyrocketing basic living costs. With the most recent U.S. unemployment numbers out this week, Americans and Egyptians might actually have more things in common.

According to the International Labour Organization, the Middle East has the world's highest unemployment rate. Unemployment in the region is 10.3 percent compared to 6.2 percent on average globally, and approximately 40 percent of those under 25 years of age in the region are jobless.
While the IMF already predicted a "strong recovery for the job markets in Europe and the United States," the Middle East still has to work on structural factors capable of changing their dynamics. The priority, both for oil-producing countries and those that do not have energy reserves, is to absorb an already high number of young people ready to enter onto the job market, a figure that continues to grow on a yearly basis.
Furthermore, when the spike in the cost of living is added on, then you really have a problem.
Food costs are among the grievances of demonstrators around the region as global food prices hit record highs in December, above levels that prompted riots in 2008, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which warned prices of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar are set to climb.
Also, Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat, bringing in 11 millions tons into the country each year. Many observers are starting to blame the growing biofuel industry. In particular, the U.S. government has been encouraging farmers to grow less wheat and more corn - thanks to subsidies, and more corn is being used to produce fuel instead of food, which contributes to rising food prices.

So, it really doesn't matter when or if Hosni Mubarak leaves office because really these bigger picture issues need to be addressed better to actually bring change for people in the region.

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At Sunday, February 06, 2011 10:36:00 AM, Anonymous Fouad in Syria said...

I totally agree that unemployment needs to be addressed in the region especially in the gulf states. these youth become disillusioned and become vulnerable to muslim fundamentalists who take advantaged of them

At Sunday, February 06, 2011 12:01:00 PM, Anonymous Muhammed Al-Etabwy said...

This is why we need Al Jazeera in America. A week into the Egypt fights and us media still hasn't talked about the fact that the white house funds mubarak

At Saturday, September 17, 2011 3:22:00 AM, Blogger mc donalds gutscheine said...

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