The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Can Egyptians Eat Cake?

A WaPo story points to the cancer eating away at Egypt’s slender chances for a happy democratic transition: the people want bread and it isn’t clear how they will get it.

As the WaPo points out, Egypt depends on imports to feed its people.  The Nile isn’t enough anymore; 80 percent of its food comes from abroad. Most Egyptians are desperately poor by world standards; the government subsidizes the cost of basic food so that the average Egyptian can afford it.

These days, the global price of food is rising, making the cost of food subsidies go up. Egypt’s government is running out of money; tourism and foreign investment are down and the economy is in trouble. Tax money isn’t coming in, and unemployment is high — making more people more dependent on subsidized food.

It’s hard to see where this goes. In a world of tight budgets and frayed nerves, there aren’t many international donors looking to increase their contributions to Egypt. The arrest of US citizens working with Egyptian NGOs makes large cutbacks more likely than large increases when it comes to US aid. There are no signs of an economic turnaround coming to Egypt in time to make a difference, and world food prices appear to be headed higher.

Watch Egypt.  The real revolution may still lie ahead.

Published on February 10, 2012 9:17 pm
  • Walter Sobchak

    Those of us who read Spengler (not Oswald, but his modern avatar David Goldman) regularly have known about this issue for a year:

    “Food and failed Arab states” By Spengler,
    Feb 2, 2011
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/MB02Ak01.html

    “Corruption and Islamism in Egypt” by David P. Goldman, December 2, 2011

    http://pjmedia.com/spengler/2011/12/02/corruption-and-islamism-in-egypt/

  • http://facingzionwards.blogspot.com/ Luke Lea

    80 percent! How do they pay for it?

  • Kenny

    “80 percent! How do they pay for it?”

    Foreign aid (welfare) is a big part, and a lot of that comes from the pocket of the U.S. taxpayer.

  • bob sykes

    One has to wonder if the Green Revolution (the original one, about crop yields) will come to a bad end.

  • Walter Grumpius

    “It’s hard to see where this goes.”

    On the contrary, it is embarrassingly easy to see where this goes.

    There are just going to have to be fewer Egyptians. A lot fewer. How exactly they work out the messy details is up to Egypt I reckon, but we know in advance what the result must eventually be, n’importe mode.

    Oh, and plus, super special note to Egypt: don’t come here.

  • Paul

    Liberals were giddy about Egypt’s prospects a year ago; Chris Matthews described himself as “jubilant.” They mocked Glenn Beck and others who warned of a looming catastrophe in Egypt. Remind me again … why are we conservatives the stupid ones?

  • Lexington Green

    Sadly, it is not hard to see where this goes. It goes to a disastrous famine. Deposing Mubarak was simply a distraction on the downward path. The Arab Spring was a mirage.

  • Kris

    I was going to start passing the plate, but then I came across this. I wouldn’t want to damage the Egyptians’ oh-so-delicate sensibilities.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other.” Edmund Burke
    The Egyptian culture is about to get schooled the hard way, as the Islamists they have put in charge fail.