Arab Spring in Egypt – Building Empirical Foundations for a Consistent Account

Ishac Diwan (Harvard University) spoke in the first session at the 2013 ERF Annual Conference taking place in Kuwait City from 3 to 5 March 2013.

After the session we recorded this short interview with Mr. Diwan. According to Mr. Diwan, the transformations that the Arab world is experiencing are going to last for several years to come. The participants in the ERF Annual Conference are trying to put together a research agenda that has traction and can find new, more profound explanations for what has happened so far, as well as contribute to the future development of the region.

In today’s the session, Mr. Diwan presented his contribution to this research agenda. In particular, his work focuses on two main elements. Firstly, the use of opinion polls to better understand social movements because economic data alone has failed to provide sufficient explanation of recent phenomena; for example it tells that inequality has not increased while the perception of inequality in people has increased a whole lot.

The second element of Mr. Diwan’s research is crony capitalism, looking at corporate data, figuring out which are the most connected firms and looking at if they behave differently. Indeed, research findings suggest that they do behave differently. For example, in Egypt ‘connected’ firms borrow most of the credit but they don’t deliver in terms of performance. This goes a long way in explaining the frustration of people with unemployment and corruption.

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