This outstanding book puts Egypt’s economic history in the context of those of other developing countries, comparing it to such histories in East Asia and Latin America. Ikram skillfully weaves economic theory into his account of Egyptian economic policies over the last half century and assesses the role and effectiveness of foreign aid. He shows that even if Egypt implemented the right policies, it likely could not replicate the success enjoyed by East Asian countries. Major attempts at reform in 1977 and 1991 failed to create a sustainable, healthy economy. Egypt saves and invests too little and suffers from low productivity, and government spending and borrowing are both high. Successive governments have filled the gaps in their budgets by relying on oil money, funding from allies such as the United States, and remittances from workers abroad. Ikram does not offer a path forward other than recommending that Egypt overhaul its institutions and improve its productivity. Egypt today has over 100 million inhabitants, who by and large live much better than their predecessors did 50 years ago. As Ikram rightly says, “One must not underestimate the country’s resilience.”
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