Egypt: the Ghost of Malthus Lingers On

  • Rodney Wilson


As the most populous state in the Middle East, Egypt presents the economic planner with an enormous developmental challenge. In view of the economic backwardness and widespread resistance to change that existed in 1952 before the revolution, the achievements since then have been remarkable, however, involving as they have radical changes in the economic structure of this teeming country. A substantial industrial sector has been created in what was hitherto a primarily agricultural economy. Within each sector there has been considerable diversification, and the country’s industrial capacity now includes an iron and steel plant, as well as numerous manufacturing establishments producing consumer durables.1 Major infrastructural developments have been undertaken, the most conspicuous of which is the Aswan High Dam, which has resulted in the provision of electricity in towns throughout the Republic. This, in addition to the country’s petroleum reserves, means that there are adequate energy resources for further industrial expansion for the first time in its history.


Saudi Arabia Middle East Free Zone Open Door Policy Defence Spending 
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  1. 1.
    For a comprehensive survey of Egypt’s industrial development see Robert Mabro and Samir Radwan, The Industrialisation of Egypt 1939–1973 (Oxford University Press, 1976) Part 2, Chapters 5 and 6 especially, p. 79 ff.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Figures from OECD, Development Co-operation (Paris, 1976) Statistical Annex, Table 46, p. 270.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Figures from Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics, Statistical Yearbook of the Arab Republic of Egypt (Cairo, October 1975) page 4.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    See Robert Mabro, ‘Employment and Wages in Dual Agriculture’, Oxford Economic Papers, vol. 23, no. 3 (1971) pp. 401–17.Google Scholar
  5. The survey results are reported by the International Labour Organisation in their Rural Employment Problems in the U.A.R. (Geneva, 1969).Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Robert Mabro, The Egyptian Economy 1952–1972 (Oxford University Press, 1974) p. 183.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    For a useful background study see Monroe Berger, Bureaucracy and Society in Modern Egypt (New York: Russell & Russell, 1957) Chapter 1, p. 3 ff, and Chapter 8, p. 176 ff. especially.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    See D. C. Mead, Growth and Structural Change in the Egyptian Economy (Homewood, Illinois: Irwin, 1967) p. 132. He quotes figures for the size of the civil service in 1937, 1947 and 1960.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    The General Organisations established under Nasser to supervise whole industries further complicated matters by introducing another tier of bureaucracy. See Patrick O’Brien, The Revolution in Egypt’s Economic System (Oxford University Press, 1966) p. 247 ff. These organisations were subsequently abolished by Sadat.Google Scholar
  10. 19.
    See Wilson, Focus Research Report on Egypt (1976) pp. 18–19.Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    Estimate given by the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London in an unpublished 1977 paper by Paul Rivlin on the ‘Economic Costs and Choices for Defence in Israel and Egypt’, p. 6. (1975/76 figure).Google Scholar
  12. 24.
    For details of the plan see Bent Hansen and G. Marzouk, Development and Economic Policy in the U.A.R. (Egypt), (Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing, 1965) Chapters 11, p. 295 ff.Google Scholar
  13. Also Magdi M. El Kammash, Economic Development and Planning in Egypt (New York: Praeger, 1968), where Chapter 10, p. 297 ff., gives a broader perspective of planning efforts in the 1960s.Google Scholar
  14. 25.
    The plan envisaged that £7 billion would have to be spent on reconstruction alone, yet by January 1977 less than £450 million had been invested through the Open Door Policy. See Wilson in Focus Research1 Report on Egypt (1976), p. 14.Google Scholar
  15. 26.
    For details of military spending during this earlier period see N. Safran, From War to War (New York: Pegasus, 1969) Appendix A, Table A, p. 433.Google Scholar
  16. 28.
    For full assessment of the effect on the Egyptian economy of he 1967 war see Eliyahu Kanovsky, The Economic Impact of the Six Day War (New York: Praeger, 1970) Chapter 15, p. 279 ff.Google Scholar
  17. 29.
    Rodney Wilson, ‘Industrialisation and Foreign Capital’ in Focus Research Report on Egypt (1974), p. 18.Google Scholar
  18. 31.
    Figure from International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 1974–75 (London, 1974) pp. 32–3.Google Scholar
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    Michael Tingay, ‘Egypt’, in Michael Field (ed.), Middle East Annual Review, (London, 1977) p. 162.Google Scholar
  20. 40.
    For the first detailed evaluation of this policy see Yusuf J. Ahmed, Absorptive Capacity of the Egyptian Economy, (Paris: OECD, 1976) Chapter 5, p. 98 ff.Google Scholar

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© Rodney Wilson 1979

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  • Rodney Wilson

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