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Economist Examines ‘Egypt’s Lost Spring’

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As Sherif Khalifa watched and read the news about the 2010 demonstrations, marches and protests happening in Egypt, the associate professor of economics found himself struggling to get a handle on what was happening.

The educator knew he had a unique perspective from which to study the events that were spreading throughout his homeland. He was once an Egyptian diplomat.

It is that perspective that he brought to the forefront in “Egypt’s Lost Spring: Causes and Consequences,” published last year by Praeger. Khalifa details the reasons that led to the revolution, what led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, and in the summer of 2013, to the military takeover.

“Egypt lived through a prolonged period of stagnation in all aspects,” explained the economist, noting that there was “deterioration in economic conditions for the majority of Egyptians, a significant percentage of the population living in abject poverty, an increasing income inequality, high levels of unemployment, inflationary pressures, ubiquitous corruption, deterioration in health services, deterioration in the quality of education and an entire economic system designed to benefit the privileged few.”

Having a president who ruled the country for three decades without allowing political participation by all parties, was another part of the problem, Khalifa said. The ruling party held a monopoly on policy making, “rigged elections, had a dismal human rights record, restricted conventional political parties and imprisoned thousands of political dissenters. In addition, the Egyptian role and status in its region dwindled as well.”

The tipping point came with the parliamentary elections of 2010, when the ruling party once again declared a sweeping victory despite its unpopularity. “There was no room in this parliament for opposition,” Khalifa stated, “and the stage was being set for the transition of power to the son of the president who was loathed for his economic policies that caused an increase in income inequality.”

Egyptians reacted. And that, was surprising and unexpected as lots of observers argued that Egyptians would not defy authority. “The revolution proved otherwise,” said Khalifa.

“They realized that they can stand up against tyranny and that they are able to change the trajectory of their country if they overcome the fear factor, and their ideological differences.

“The uprising caused lots of Egyptians to feel that they are invested in their country’s affairs,” he explained. “Unfortunately, the latest military takeover led to a worse situation than the one that prevailed before the uprising.

“The problems that began the Egypt Spring are still there today,” Khalifa said. “Before the revolution, people could talk, there were opposition newspapers, but not now. This has caused lots of frustration and disappointment among those who hoped for a better future after the revolution.”

The scholar notes that recently protests have begun again and opposition groups, who have been operating separately, seem to be working toward collaboration. But for right now, “I’m waiting to see what happens.”