Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Aid to Tunisia and Egypt: Not Exactly a Marshall Plan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Aid to Tunisia and Egypt: Not Exactly a Marshall Plan

Article excerpt

As the G8 countries meet in France to discuss support of the Arab Spring, hopes are modest. But a giant Marshall Plan for these new democracies is less needed than is effective aid.

As the group of industrialized countries that make up the Group of Eight meet in France, few people expect them to announce a Marshall Plan for the Arab Spring.

Their economic and financial support for new Arab democracies will be modest compared with what America offered to help Europe get back on its feet after World War II - a stunning $120 billion in today's dollars.

But size is not so much the issue today; effectiveness is.

Tunisia and Egypt, which toppled their dictators, have lost economic ground as a result of their largely peaceful revolutions. For their seedling democracies to succeed, they need timely financial and commercial aid that yields tangible results - and that shows autocratic neighbors that the grass is indeed greener on the other side of the fence.

As bureaucracies go, the United States, European Union, and World Bank have moved relatively quickly on the aid front. President Obama pledged $2 billion to Egypt last week. The EU announced this week an extra $1.7 billion for its "neighborhood" budget (about two-thirds of that program has traditionally gone to North Africa and the Middle East). The World Bank, meanwhile, is proposing a package of $6 billion.

Their proposals also show they've learned something about foreign aid over the decades. "Trade, not just aid," Mr. Obama said last week. And America needs to encourage private investment in these places, "not just assistance."

Coincidentally, the EU recently undertook a review of its neighborhood policy. It acknowledged it needs to change the way it helps countries on its periphery, including those on the more distant shores of the Mediterranean Sea, such as Tunisia and Egypt.

EU officials say they erred by favoring stability over democratic and economic reform. They also failed to build in proper accountability. Now they're working to reward reform and punish backsliding, and tailor assistance to individual countries.

Obama and others point to the successful rebuilding of Central and Eastern Europe as their model for the Arab world. …

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