ERF 2nd National Dialogue: Between Political Reform and Economic Development - Economic Research Forum (ERF)

The Economic Research Forum (ERF) held a national dialogue on September 30 under the title “Between Political Reform and Economic Development…Egypt the Future, 2015. The event emanated from ERF’s understanding of the importance of having a serious discussion on the future of Egypt.

Renowned economists, political scientists, policy makers and journalists attended the dialogue to debate the nature of the relationship between economic development and political reform. This timely topic comes as Egypt approaches the holding of much anticipated parliamentary elections – the third and final step of the political roadmap set forth after the June 30 uprising – making the need to clarify the relationship between political reform and economic development all the more pressing.

The dialogue, held in Arabic, was moderated by ERF Managing Director Ahmed Galal and featured former Arab League head Amr Moussa, former Minister of International Cooperation Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, former Member of Parliament Amr El-Shobaki, and former Director of Research at the National Bank of Egypt Salwa el-Antary.

Together, participants tackled the following questions: Is there really a “cruel choice” between economic growth and political reform? Conversely, does the pursuit of economic and political reform need to be simultaneous? If not, which should come first, economic development or political reform?

In his introductory remarks, Galal noted the importance of understanding that the diversity of opinions is valuable in itself. In this sense, he stressed that ERF’s national dialogue provides an open and independent platform through which different ideas can be discussed.

Moving on, the dialogue began with Antary’s take on the relationship between political and economic reform. She argued that politics and economics are inseparable and that while people usually agree that economic problems exist, they disagree on how to solve them. In this sense, she noted that different solutions for economic problems entail different biases and different costs and benefits to different actors.

Speaking next, Shobaki underlined the concept of political development. He explained that while much has been said about the importance of political reform and economic development, little do people approach the topic of political development. According to Shobaki, political development is related to the capabilities and capacities of civil society and political parties and their ability to organize regardless of the political system in place. Without such political development, Shobaki noted that economic development cannot happen. Shobaki added that one way to achieve political development is by capitalizing on the values of professionalism, integrity and efficiency that fueled mega projects in Egypt, like the new Suez Canal project. Such values he said, are a core gain from economic achievements that should be spread to all aspects of societal life so that they become reflected in reality.

On his part, Bahaa-Eldin said that economic decisions are inherently political and agreed that economic development can in no way take place without adequate political reform that opens the way for political participation. In this context, Bahaa-Eldin identified five economic benefits that result from having a solid political foundation, one characterized by stability and room for participation.

Speaking next, Moussa started by saying that Egypt is in dire need of a comprehensive project for reform. In this framework, he noted that such a project needs to encompass administrative reform alongside political and economic reform. Moussa stressed the importance of the Constitution and the upcoming parliament in paving the path for both political and economic reform in Egypt.



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