Walker on USAID Egypt

America's economic assistance program to Egypt needs to be refocused

Former US ambassador to Egypt Edward Walker -- one of the most prominent Arabists of the last few decades -- makes an important point on US aid to Egypt. I particularly liked that he took up the problems with the Commodity Import Program, which as far as I can tell merely subsidizes American companies and helps create a local comprador capitalist class:

In this case the money does already belong to the Egyptian government. One problem with this is that US objectives are no longer the guiding principal in the allocation process. In addition, the loans provided to Egyptian businessmen tend to be driven more by sales of American products than by AID's reform agenda, not a bad thing, but not a recognized purpose of the AID program. AID needs to take a hard look at how this program might be restructured to direct it more closely to AID's objectives.

Update: I've added a long note in answer to a question in the comments.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.