Post 2 – My Own Experiences in 2011

I’ve been wanting to perform a study like this for a long time—for almost four years now, actually. After my senior year in high school, I spent around five months in Egypt living with a host family and performing volunteer work for an Egyptian charity connected with the Boy Scouts. I’d originally hoped to spend a year working and living there while improving my Arabic. What follows here is a collection of my own impressions of the 2011 revolution as well as how my experience helped be develop the questions I posed to myself before beginning this project. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to travel to Egypt this time around, but my experiences there have both inspired and informed the work I’ve been doing.

Of course, things kind of changed on January 25. What began as an anti-government protest (scheduled on a policeman’s holiday, funnily enough) eventually ended up ousting then-president Hosni Mubarak, who’d been in power since the assassination of Sadat in the early 1980s. Egyptians had been suffering for a while—multiple issues, including government repression, inefficiencies in the provision and administration of public services, widespread graft and corruption, and a stagnating economy, increased public Egyptian resentment against the government. Still, up until the 25th, protests against the regime had never really taken off. While very committed activists (usually young and relatively liberal—in the old sense of the term) had been protesting for years before the 2011 revolution, their protests were suppressed before they could gain widespread popular support. Not so with the January 25 protests. From my own recollection, I remember how the protests spiraled into repeated clashes with the police, followed by brutal repression, and then began drawing in demographics (like the very poor, Islamist factions like the Muslim Brotherhood) that in the past had not been capable of working with one another.

The US Embassy and State Department helped me evacuate Egypt at the end of January. After I got home, I was both encouraged and a little bit puzzled by the way the Western media was reporting on the issue. Though obviously a full lit review on the literature covering the media representation of protests is outside the purview of this economic research project, I’ll again give my own impressions—as they’re an important part of what led me to undertake this project 4 years later. Though things like social media (Facebook, etc) were widely discussed as a driving force behind the revolution, I found myself wondering why this was so heavily covered and discussed instead of other issues, such as the effects of Egypt’s recent half-hearted attempts at economic liberalization, as well as the lingering hold the government continued to have over key areas of the economy despite this liberalization. In addition, the military itself continued to control a big chunk of the economy and production. I’ve posted a few sources at the bottom of this entry for further reading.

Amid the growing unrest, the Egyptian stock market (or “bursa” in Arabic) actually shut down. The market shut down on January 27 and only reopened on March 24 (more on this later, as it becomes important for the data that I am actually using). This meant no trading, etc—a complete freeze. At the same time, growing political unrest started seriously impacting people’s personal lives—including their judgments of their economic future. One of the most common concerns I heard from my friends, both while I was in Egypt and after I left, was that the political instability would hurt economic growth. This concern was especially important in a country like Egypt, that relies on stability to draw in tourists and vacationers.

So, for this project, I’ve taken my personal observations and tried to see how they measure up against numerical data. How much was the Egyptian economy really impacted by the revolution? Did it hit some sectors harder than others? And so on.

 

Keith Maskus and Denise Konan, “Trade Liberalization in Egypt,” Review of Development Economics 1, no. 3 (1997).

Mona Said and Abeer Elshennawy, “The impact of trade liberalization on manufacturing employment and wages in Egypt 1990-2007,” International Research Journal of Finance and Economics 46 (2010).

World Bank. Arab Republic of Egypt Trade Brief. World Bank, 2009.