In Egypt’s 2011 uprising, political and economic grievances were closely linked in attempts to address complex problems of corruption and injustice. But the crossclass, cross-ideology coalition that united behind the uprising has predictably fragmented, and different groups now have divergent views on the applicability of liberal economic policies to Egypt.
The Islamist parties which between them won a majority in the 2011–12 parliamentary election appear to favour the continuation of a broadly pro-market policy, although, like all parties, they have emphasized the need for greater ‘social justice’ and less corruption. Leftist groups and trade unions remain largely unrepresented in parliament and tensions may be brewing between labour and Islamist forces over economic policy.
Uncertainty over future economic policy is currently deterring investment. Although economic policy was not the main focus in the parliamentary election campaign, there is a pressing need for all parties to develop their economic blueprints further.
Debates over the role of the state, the free market and the nature of globalization are part of democratic self-determination. Rather than repeating old mantras about the intrinsic desirability of a smaller public sector, external actors need to remember that economic policy advice on the role of the state is not purely technical but value-laden.