Libmonster ID: KZ-2144



Doctor of Historical Sciences


Keywords: Egyptian revolution, Arab revolution, demography, youth, unemployment, inequality, corruption

In Egypt, the poor were less affected by the global rise in food prices than in most other third world countries, as the Mubarak administration took serious measures to protect them through a subsidy system.


Currently, the food subsidy system in Egypt is divided into two types. The firstis subsidizing Baladi bread. Since 1989, the government has kept the price of this type of bread at 5 piastres* for a flatbread weighing 130 g. This type of subsidy is universal, i.e. any resident of the country has the right to buy 20 baladi flatbreads daily at a low (subsidized) price in state-owned cooperative stores1.

The second type of subsidy is walkie-talkie cards. They allow families to purchase a certain amount of certain basic food items, such as sugar, vegetable oil, etc., on a monthly basis at a subsidized price.

During a period of rapid growth in world food prices, including wheat, the Mubarak regime made heroic efforts to keep the price of baladi bread at the same level, and succeeded in doing so. Even in the midst of the crisis, any Egyptian could still buy 20 130 g tortillas a day for 1 pound (about 6 rubles) - more than 2 kg of bread! Thus, even those who lived on less than $2 a day were not in danger of starvation. What caused the violent mass protests of the population in the spring of 2008?

The fact is that at that time, the Baladi bread subsidy system in Egypt began to work with increasing interruptions due to the fact that a significant part of the flour subsidized by the state was not used by bakeries for baking bread, but was resold on the" black " market, where a bag of flour cost more than 100 times more than the state price. Accordingly, bakeries produced significantly less baladi bread, which led to huge queues and strong discontent among the low-income segments of the population.

To calm the strikers, the country's leadership took a number of measures, in particular, public sector workers were promised a third increase in wages. Several important changes were made to the subsidy system. So, baladi bread should be sold not in bakeries, but in special stores (it was assumed that the separation of production and retail sales would help reduce queues). The list of products subsidized by walkie-talkie cards has been changed to remove things that were not popular.2 Most significantly, the Government decided to increase the number of beneficiaries of the subsidy system (from 39.5 million to 63 million people); the system began to apply to Egyptians born relatively recently-in 1989-2005. 3

The increase in the number of recipients of food subsidies has led to a significant increase in government spending for these purposes. Thus, in fiscal year 2008 - 2009, food subsidies cost the government a total of 21.5 billion tenge (of which 16 billion was spent on Baladi bread). compared to 10 billion rubles in FY 2007-2008, 4 Spending on subsidies was 1.4% in 2005, and in 2008 it was already 1.8% of GDP.5
Thus, by the beginning of a new round of rising food prices on the world market, 100% of the Egyptian population was provided with cheap subsidized bread, and almost 80% bought sugar, butter and rice at a low state price. Almost 80% of the country's residents had walkie-talkie cards. At the same time, according to the data of the study with-

The study was supported by the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (project N 10 - 06 - 00344 "Forecasting risks and threats to the stability of socio-political systems").

Ending. For the beginning, see: Asia and Africa Today, 2011, No. 6.

* Piastre-a modern change coin of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, equal to one hundredth of a pound. $1 is equal to approx. 4.6 eg. pounds.

page 15

Figure 1. Dynamics of average per capita food consumption in Egypt in 1961-2007, kcal per person per day.

Источник: Food and Agriculture Organization Statistics -

According to a 2008 demographic and health survey, 40% of Egyptian women and 18% of men were overweight due to overeating.6 Accordingly, it is completely wrong to say that insufficient subsidies put a significant part of the population on the verge of starvation survival.

However, the Egyptian subsidy system, while mitigating the impact on the poor caused by the global rise in food prices, 7 has not completely prevented it. After all, it does not include all the necessary food for life. In addition, on average, an Egyptian family with a food card buys 60% of the sugar, 73% of the butter and 40% of the rice it consumes at a subsidized price, 8 and the rest of these products have to be purchased at commercial prices that are 2 to 3 times higher than state prices.

Let us take a slightly longer-term view of the dynamics of average per capita food consumption in Egypt (see chart 1).

Here it is necessary to recall that the norm of average per capita food consumption recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) is 2.3 - 2.4 thousand kcal per person on day 9. In Egypt, even in the early 1960s, the problem of malnutrition was quite real, and the average per capita food consumption was slightly lower than the WHO recommended norm. However, by the mid-1960s the country reached this level, but it could not exceed it until 1974. After 1973, per capita food consumption went up, already in 1982 (i.e., a year after the death of President A. Sadat) exceeding the threshold of 3 thousand kcal and never after that falling below this threshold. Most Egyptians now faced the problem of overeating rather than malnutrition. To some extent, this was due to the fairly successful economic reforms initiated by the Sadat administration in 1974 (the so-called Infitah)10.


Thus, we can say that in the 1970s-1980s.

Egypt managed to get out of the so-called Malthusian trap. Recall that the "Malthusian Trap" 11 is usually understood as a situation typical of pre-industrial societies, when the growth in the production of means of subsistence (as a result of the fact that it is accompanied by overtaking demographic growth) is not accompanied in the long term by an increase in production per capita and an improvement in the living conditions of the vast majority of the population remaining at close to the level of hungry survival 12. Throughout the pre-industrial history of mankind (especially in relation to complex agrarian social systems), large-scale domestic political upheavals were often associated with the presence of human societies in the "Malthusian trap" 13.

The natural question is: how should the exit from the "Malthusian trap" affect the life expectancy and mortality of the population?

The first answer that comes to mind is the correct one. If

page 16

Figure 2. Dynamics of Egyptian life expectancy (in years), 1970-1995

Source: World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2011 -

people who were previously malnourished completely and completely solve the problem of hunger and start eating enough, their life expectancy increases, and the mortality rate in the corresponding population decreases. Indeed, in all cases known to us, the exit from the "Malthusian trap" was accompanied by a rapid increase in life expectancy and a sharp reduction in mortality. Egypt was no exception (see diagrams 2 and 3).

The death rate in the country has almost halved in just 20 years (from 1970 to 1990)! In full accordance with the demographic transition theory14, a decline in the birth rate followed some time later, but, as usual, with a noticeable delay (see figure 4).

This is not to say that the presidential administration did not understand the hidden danger that lurked in the growing gap between birth and death rates - almost from the very beginning of Mubarak's rule (1981), it began to take measures aimed at reducing the birth rate.15 However, it was only in the second half of the 1980s that a truly effective program of such measures was finally developed. It was implemented by the Egyptian Government in cooperation with the international organization USAID and was aimed at large-scale implementation of family planning practices.16

In 1985, Hosni Mubarak established the National Population Council, which developed two 5-year plans to reduce the birth rate. The program involved religious leaders-from the head of the oldest religious university in Al-Azhar to the imams of village mosques-to spread the message in their fatwas and sermons: family planning does not contradict the Koran. On the contrary, it is a God-pleasing task, since with fewer children, parents will be able to give them a happy childhood and a decent education.17 This strategy was successful: in just 5 years - from 1988 to 1992 - the birth rate in Egypt fell from 5 to 4 children per woman.

Nevertheless, until the second half of the 1980s, the gap between fertility and mortality was growing, and with it the rate of population growth. As a result, population growth in Egypt in the 1970s and 1980s was explosive (see chart 5).

Of course, such rapid population growth will inevitably create serious structural stresses in any system. However, this factor was by no means the only force that generated such structural stresses. Let's pay attention to the curve of absolute population growth in Egypt (see chart 6).

As we can see, the absolute growth rate of the Egyptian population reached its maximum in 1985-1989. And now

Figure 3. Dynamics of the total mortality rate (per thousand) in Egypt, 1970-1995

Source: World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2011 -

page 17

Figure 4. Dynamics of total fertility and mortality rates (per thousand) in Egypt, 1970-1990, logarithmic scale.

Source: World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2011- //

subtract 1985 from 2010. We get 25. And 1989 from 2010 - 21. This is the large generation of young Egyptians between the ages of 21 and 25 who came to Al-Tahrir Square in January 2011.

Let us ask the question: how should the exit from the "Malthusian trap" affect infant and child mortality? Children especially suffer from malnutrition. And the fact that a country is emerging from the "Malthusian trap" by definition means that the rate of economic growth is outpacing the rate of population growth. This means that the country is successfully modernizing and has sufficient resources for the development of a modern health system, which is especially conducive to reducing infant and child mortality.

Indeed, in all cases known to us, the exit of social systems from the "Malthusian trap"was accompanied by a rapid decrease in infant and child mortality. Egypt was no exception here (see chart 7).

As we can see, if the total death rate in Egypt in 1975-1995.

If it has fallen by half, then child and infant mortality has decreased by 3 times in the same historically short period of time. So, at the 1st phase of the demographic transition (which, we note, tends to coincide with the process of getting out of the "Malthusian trap"), there is a radical decrease in mortality. At the same time, infant and child mortality is declining most rapidly, and this is happening against the background of the still very high birth rate. As a result, if in traditional societies (before the beginning of the demographic transition) out of 6-7 children born to a woman during her lifetime, 2-3 children lived to reproductive age, then at the 1st phase of the demographic transition, due to a sharp drop in infant and child mortality, 5 children may already live to reproductive age - 6 children. And taking into account the fact that the total birth rate at the 1st phase of the demographic transition is often even growing, 7-8 children can survive to the reproductive age.

This leads not only to a sharp acceleration in the population growth rate-

Figure 5. Population dynamics in Egypt, 1836-1990 (thousands of people).

For a description of the sources for compiling this chart, see: Korotaev A.V. Long-term political and demographic dynamics of Egypt: cycles and trends. 2006.

page 18

Figure 6. Dynamics of absolute annual population growth rates in Egypt in 1975-1992 (thousand people / year).

Calculated by: World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2011 -

Chart 7. Dynamics of infant (per 1000 live births) and child (per 1000 children under 5 years of age) mortality rate in Egypt in 1970-1995

Source: World Bank. World Development Indicators Online. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2011 -; SH.DYN.MORT

It also leads to a demographic explosion, but also to the fact that the generation of children is much larger than the generation of parents, and as a result, the share of young people in the total population is growing. As you know, at the 2nd phase of the demographic transition, there is a strong decrease in the birth rate (which tends to reduce the share of young people in the total population), but this occurs with a significant delay, as a result of which the so-called Youth Bulge is formed in the demographic history of a particular country. Egypt was no exception here (see figure 8).


As J. R. R. Tolkien notes: Goldstone, "the rapid growth of youth participation in society can undermine existing political coalitions, creating instability. Large cohorts of young people are often attracted to new ideas or orthodox religions that challenge old forms of power. In addition, since most young people have fewer commitments to their families and careers, they are relatively easily mobilized to engage in social or political conflicts.

Let us recall that it is young people who have played a major role in political violence throughout recorded history, and the presence of a" youth bulge " (an unusually high proportion of young people aged 15-24 in the general adult population) has historically correlated with times of political crisis. Most major revolutions, including most of the 20th-century revolutions in developing countries, occurred where there were significant "youth ridges" 18.

Consider the dynamics of the absolute number of Egyptians aged 20-24 years (see Chart 8). In a predictable way (in absolute terms), the growth of this age cohort looks impressive: in just the last 20 years, its number has almost doubled. But these are exactly the people who enter the labor market, and it is clear that even in a rapidly growing economy, it is almost impossible to quickly create millions of jobs necessary for their employment. And what

page 19

Diagram 8. Egyptian "youth hillock". Dynamics of the number of Egyptian youth aged 20-24 years (thousand people) (with a forecast until 2015).

Calculated from: UN Population Division Database - The calculation was made by Yu. V. Bozhevolnov.

what will happen if economic growth slows down, even if only due to objective circumstances beyond the control of the country's leaders?..

Here we should return to the topic of unemployment. As we remember, its level at the beginning of the Egyptian revolution was, by world standards, not very high - about 9%. But at the same time, we must take into account the important fact that about half of all Egyptian unemployed people belonged to the age group of 20-24 years 19. The total number of unemployed people in Egypt is about 2.5 million 20. Thus, on the eve of the revolution, there were more than 1 million unemployed in this age group - they were the striking force of the revolution.


In general, it is not surprising that the Mubarak administration "missed" the social explosion. After all, statistics - and with good reason-claimed that the country is developing very successfully. The economy is growing at a good pace even in times of crisis. Levels of poverty and social inequality are among the most prosperous in the third world. Global food prices are rising, but the Government is taking serious steps to mitigate the impact on the poorest segments of the population. The unemployment rate (as a percentage) is lower than in many fairly prosperous countries of the world, and has recently been slightly reduced, which is happening against the background of a slowdown in population growth.

It would seem that there is no reason to expect a large-scale social explosion. Yes, there are, of course, some small groups of troublemakers-bloggers, but is there any reason to expect that they will be able to bring any significant masses of people after them?..

And of course, it was hard to calculate that the Mubarak regime would be hurt by the progress it (and its predecessor) had made in modernizing Egypt. Progress that led to a sharp drop in mortality in general and infant and child mortality in particular in 1975-1990. Success, without which many of the young Egyptians who were foaming at the mouth at Al-Tahrir demanding the resignation or even the death of Mubarak and the "fall of the regime" would simply have died before they were old enough to take to the streets with such demands.

Yes, the percentage of unemployment in Egypt has remained virtually unchanged since the mid-1990s. But the number of Egyptian youth has almost doubled in the same period. This means that the number of young unemployed people has increased at least the same number of times (this, by the way, shows how dangerous it is to trust the numbers).

One more detail. The same study conducted by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics of Egypt in the third quarter of 2010 (we have already referred to it above when we discussed the proportion of young people among the Egyptian unemployed) revealed one impressive fact: more than 43% of the Egyptian unemployed had a higher education. 21! Thus, the strike force of the Egyptian revolution was not only young, but also highly educated. We believe that this circumstance gave a noticeable specificity to the Egyptian revolution, including its emotional attractiveness and relative "anemia".

Indeed, despite the colossal scale of the Egyptian events, which involved millions of people in their cycle for many days, the total death toll was about 300 people. And most of them were killed not by the rebels,but by the security forces and the criminal elements involved in suppressing the uprising.

Recall that during the previous major popular uprisings in Egypt - the bread riots of 1977 (the main striking force then was poorly educated Egyptian youth), which lasted only two days and the number of participants in which was measured in hundreds of thousands (and not millions, as in 2011) - about 800 people were killed 22. In this respect, the Egyptian revolution of 2011 was closer to the youth riots and "velvet revolutions" in Europe than to the bloody popular uprisings and revolutions in the third world.

However, it is unlikely that the Egyptian revolution would have gained such a powerful scale if its protest base had been limited only to the unsettled situation of highly educated youth, if it had not been supported by millions of Egyptians of different ages, occupations and ways of life.-

page 20
Those who have fallen below the poverty line as a result of rising world food prices, despite all the measures taken by the Mubarak administration, are at the lowest level. It was the combination of a large number of unsettled, highly educated youth and millions of Egyptians who fell below the poverty line in a matter of months that created the social explosive material of the revolution.

True, as you know, explosives alone are not enough for an explosion - you also need a spark. Therefore, we believe that we have described above only the necessary and not sufficient conditions for the Egyptian social explosion.

Let's mention a few more factors, without which the Egyptian revolution could not have happened. To begin with, some of the rebels ' claims against the Mubarak regime were still completely justified.

Indeed, the decades - long state of emergency (since 1981 - editor's note) have created a situation of complete lack of control by the security forces, which has led to the massive use of torture against discontented regimes. It is worth remembering the spread of the Internet, which created an unprecedented means of self-organization for Egyptian educated youth, as well as the Arab satellite channels and their talented TV journalists, who transmitted emotionally vivid images of popular performances to all parts of the Arab world.

And of course, like many others, we believe that the Egyptian events would hardly have been possible if the revolution in Tunisia had not been so quick and bloodless, if it had not created the feeling that a change of power in an Arab country could be achieved just as quickly and without excessive brutality.

* * *

Thus, we believe that the Egyptian revolution would not have been possible without certain objective prerequisites, but it was not inevitable either.

In the end, the "youth boom" in Egypt was supposed to rapidly decline, easing pressure on the labor market every year, and a well-thought-out program of economic reforms allowed us to count on an "Egyptian miracle", i.e., GDP growth of about 10% per year. And this was supposed to happen in the very near future, together with the political liberalization expected from Gamal Mubarak, to defuse the accumulated social explosive material by January 2011.

El-Fiqi M. 1 Mission: get bread // Al-Ahram Weekly On-line, N 888, 13 - 19.03.2008 -

2 Report of the 32nd RECA Seminar on food security - Global Trends and Perspective held at IDACA, Tokyo, Japan, 12 - 25 July 2010. P. 159.

3 Ibidem.

4 Ibid.

Adams R.H. 5, Valstar A., Wiles P. Evaluation Report of Egypt Country Programme (2007 - 2011) "Enabling Livelihoods, Nutrition and Food Security". World Food Program, Office of Evaluation, p. 1.

6 Egypt Ministry of Health, National Population Council, El-Zanaty and Associates, and ORC Macro. January 2009: Egypt Demographic and Health Survey (EDHS). 2008.

Adams R.H. 7, Valstar A., Wiles P. Op. cit, p. 33.

El Nakeeb A.M. 8 Egyptian Food Subsidy System Structure, performance and future perspective. Paper presented at World Bank "Social Protection Responses to the Three Waves of Crisis: Finance, Food, and Fuel" South-South Learning Forum, 15 - 18 June 2009, Cairo.

9 See, for example, Naiken L. 2002. FAO Methodology for Estimating the Prevalence of Undernourishment. Paper Presented at International Scientific Symposium on Measurement and Assessment of Food Deprivation and Undernutrition, Rome, Italy -

10 For more information, see, for example: Korotaev A.V., Khalturina D. A., Malkov A. S., Bozhevolnov Yu. V., Kobzeva S. V., Zinkina Yu. V. Zakony istorii: Matematicheskoe modelirovanie i prognozirovanie mirovogo i regional'nogo razvitiya [Laws of History: Mathematical Modeling and Forecasting of World and Regional Development]. Moscow: LKI / URSS, 2010, pp. 165-169; Korotaev A.V., Khalturina D. A., Kobzeva S. V., Zinkina Yu. V. Trap at the exit from the trap? On some features of the political and demographic dynamics of modernizing systems - in the collection: Projects and risks of the future. Akaev A. A., Korotaev A.V., Malinetsky G. G., Malkov S. Yu. Kontseptsii, modeli, instrumenty, prognozii [Concepts, models, tools, forecasts]. URSS, 2011, pp. 66-70.

11 In the language of nonlinear dynamics, it can also be called a " low - level equilibrium attractor "(cf.: Nebon R. R. A theory of the low level equilibrium trap in underdeveloped economies / / American Economic Review. 1956. 46: 894 - 908).

12 See, for example: Grinin L. E., Korotaev A.V., Malkov S. Y. Mathematical models of socio-demographic cycles and exit from the "Malthusian trap": some possible directions for further development - in the collection: Problems of Mathematical History. Matematicheskoe modelirovanie istoricheskikh protsessov [Mathematical modeling of historical processes] / Ed. by G. G. Malinetsky, A.V. Korotaev. Moscow: Librokom / URSS. 2008, pp. 78-117.

13 See, for example: Nefedov S. A. The concept of demographic cycles. Yekaterinburg: UGGU Publishing House. 2007; Turchin P. V. Istoricheskaya dinamika [Historical dynamics]. Na puti k teoreticheskoi istorii [On the way to theoretical history], Moscow: LKI / URSS. 2007; Korotaev A.V., Khalturina D. A., Bozhevolnov Yu. V. Zakony istorii [Laws of History]. Secular cycles and millennial trends. Demographics. Economy. Wars. Moscow: KomKniga/URSS. 2010.

14 See, for example: Vishnevsky A. G. Demograficheskaya revolyutsiya [Demographic Revolution], Moscow: Statistika Publ., 1976. 1. Demograficheskaya teoriya i demograficheskaya istoriya [Demographic Theory and Demographic History], Moscow: Nauka, 2005; Chesnais J. C. The Demographic Transition: Stages, Patterns, and Economic Implications. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1992; Korotaev A.V., Malkov A. S., Khalturina D. A. Laws of History: Mathematical modeling of the World-System development. Demography, economy, culture. Moscow: KomKniga / URSS. 2007.

Fargues P. 15 State Policies and the Birth Rate in Egypt: From Socialism to Liberalism // Population and Development Review. 1997. 23(1): 115 - 138, p. 117 - 118.

Moreland S. 16 Egypt's Population Program: Assessing 25 Years of Family Planning. USAID. 2006.

Ali K.A. 17 Modernization and Family Planning Programs in Egypt // Middle East Report, 1997, N 205. Middle East Studies Networks: The Politics of a Field, p. 40 - 44.

GoldstoneJ. 18 Population and Security: How Demographic Change Can Lead to Violent Conflict // Journal of International Affairs. 2002. 56/1: 11 - 12.

19 Al-jihaz al-markaziyy li-l-ta'bi'ah al-'ammah wa-1-ihsa'. Bahth al-qiwa al-'amilah li-l-rub' al-thalith (yulyu/aghustus/sibtimbir). al-Qahirah: Al-jihaz al-markaziyy li-l-ta'bi'ah al-'amah wa-l-ihsa', 2010 -

20 SaMah Fu'ad Abd al-Rahman (al-muharrir). Nashrat Suq al-'amal al-misriyy. Nashrah rub' sanawiyyah. I III-2010. al-Qahirah: Wizarat al-qiwa al-'amilah wa-l-hijrah, 2010, p. 4.

21 Al-jihaz al-markaziyy li-l-ta'bi'ah al-'ammah wa-l-ihsa'. Bahth al-qiwa al-'amilah li-l-rub' al-thalith (yulyu/aghustus/sibtimbir). al-Qahirah: Al-jihaz al-markaziyy li-l-ta'bi'ah al-'amah wa-l-ihsa', 2010 -

22 См., напр.: Hirst D. How High Life and Scandal Rocked Sadat // MERIP Reports 54 (1977): 19 - 20.


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