Fri, Aug 16, 2013 - Page 9 News List

Democracy in Egypt under fire

By Barak Barfi

However, of the US$1.56 billion that the US State Department requested for Egypt this year, only US$250 million is earmarked for non-military programs.

The US should increase funding for projects that focus on governance, civil society, and strengthening the rule of law. Such programs receive a paltry US$25 million in this year’s budget.

To bolster the economy, the US needs to shift its aid policies away from funding projects toward providing immediate budgetary relief. Though financing water-efficiency schemes certainly helps society, its effects are felt years after the aid is initially dispensed.

The US, and other Western donors, should instead help Egypt to husband its resources, which are often misspent in an effort to placate its people. Egypt is the largest wheat importer in the world, and food subsidies account for approximately 2 percent of GDP. To preserve its precious foreign-currency reserves, Egypt needs the US and its allies to provide foodstuffs. Such a policy was adopted in the aftermath of the 1973 war, when the US offered US$200 million annually for wheat procurement. Embracing such policies will give institutions and the democratic process the time and space they need to plant firm roots.

Beyond such questions lies the fate of democracy in one of civilization’s most ancient lands. Whoever triumphs in future elections will lack the legitimacy that only a majority can provide. Such a majority spoke last year, when it elected Morsi. To strip him of his post negates a basic pillar of democracy and sets a dangerous precedent.

However, in a country that faces so many problems, the paradox of Morsi’s removal from power and the dilemmas of democracy that occasioned it are not among them.

Barak Barfi is a research fellow at the New America Foundation.

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