Whatever the Group of Eight actually had in mind, the proposed aid package for the misnomered Arab Spring has already become a punching bag for opposition budget-cutters. "Should we be borrowing money from China to turn around and give it to the Muslim Brotherhood?" Sarah Palin asked on May 27.
"Now, given that Egypt has a history of corruption when it comes to utilizing American aid, it is doubtful that the money will really help needy Egyptian people. Couple that with the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood is organized to have a real shot at taking control of Egypt’s government, and one has to ask why we would send money (that we don't have) into unknown Egyptian hands," the former Republican vice-presidential candidate added.
Whether any amount of foreign aid will stabilize Egypt's economic position is questionable, even if the industrial nations and the Arab Gulf states opened their purses, which is doubtful.
From Arab-language online media, it appears that Egypt's economic troubles have metastasized. Last month, rice disappeared from public storehouses amid press reports that official food distribution organizations were selling the grain by the container on the overseas market. Last week, diesel fuel was the scarce commodity, with 24-hour queues forming around gasoline stations. Foreign tankers were waiting at Port Said on the Suez Canal to pump diesel oil from storage facilities, as government officials sold the scarce commodity for cash.
This is the sort of general breakdown I observed in 1992 in Russia, following the collapse of the communist government. As an adviser to finance minister Yegor Gaidar, I heard stories of Russian officials selling unregistered trainloads of raw materials on foreign markets and depositing the proceeds in Swiss banking accounts. Anything of value that could find a buyer overseas was sold. I didn't last long as an adviser; looting and pillaging wasn't my area of competence. Russia, it should be recalled, is largely self-sufficient in food and is among the world's largest oil producers, while Egypt imports half its food. Russia had enormous resources on which to draw. Egypt, Syria and Tunisia have nothing.
For 60 years, the Egyptian army and associated crony capitalists ran the economy as a private preserve. Although the army remains in nominal charge, the public humiliation of Mubarak serves notice on the previous masters of Egypt's little universe that they are as vulnerable as their former patron. Everyone who can get out will and will take with them whatever they can.
Syria is also vulnerable to hunger, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned May 23. "Continuing unrest in Syria will not only affect economic growth but could disrupt food distribution channels leading to severe localized shortages in main markets," according to the FAO. ''Syria hosts one of the largest urban refugee populations in the world, including nearly one million Iraqis who have become more vulnerable because of rising food and fuel prices."The writer concedes that no amount of foreign aid is likely to help Egypt, but we're supposed to throw away our money on it nonetheless? Spoken by someone who despises the West and capitalism. In fact, what these bogus "Arab Spring" countries need is more capitalism and less Islam, the Jewish state in the same region providing an object lesson in what can be done when people have their act together, aren't mired in the authoritarianism engendered by an Islamic mindset and aren't waiting around for the world to bail them out.