G8 leaders promised US$20 billion in aid to Tunisia and Egypt yesterday and held out the prospect of billions more to foster the “Arab Spring” and the new democracies emerging from popular uprisings in the region.
Likening it to the fall of the Berlin Wall that changed Europe, G8 leaders ending an annual summit in France launched a partnership for North Africa and the Middle East that ties aid and development cash to progress on political and economic reforms by states that have thrown out autocratic rulers.
Tunisian Finance Minister Jalloul Ayed said host French President Nicolas Sarkozy had proposed a total of US$40 billion in financial support, though details were sketchy on whether this had broader backing and which countries might be eligible.
“He proposed — and now plans are being made — for meetings of finance and foreign ministers to be held between now and the start of July, to flesh out this program by country and by project,” Ayed told a news conference.
In their statement, to be issued formally after the two-day summit in the northern resort of Deauville, G8 leaders signaled they “strongly support the aspirations of the Arab Spring as well as those of the Iranian people.”
“The changes under way in the Middle East and North Africa are historic and have the potential to open the door to the kind of transformation that occurred in Central and Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall,” the G8 planned to say in a communique obtained in advance by reporters.
They said special development banks “could provide over US$20 billion, including 3.5 billion euros [US$5 billion] from the EIB [European Investment Bank], for Egypt and Tunisia for this year to 2013 in support of suitable reform efforts.”
Senior Egyptian and Tunisian officials met the leaders of the G8 to underscore their need for massive international support for economies knocked out of kilter by the popular uprisings against long-serving authoritarian leaders.
Tourism in particular has been hard hit.