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Why economic development comes first

Mohammed Al Shaikh

Published: Updated:

It’s crystal clear now that the phenomenon of political Isalmization is shrinking little by little and its influence on new generations is weakening. One of the major reasons is its failure in the heart of its stronghold, Egypt. This is in addition to the failure of the Arab Spring, which Islamized groups and their branches rode its wave.

I think the civilized solution and the means to escape underdevelopment cannot be through concepts which ideological rhetoric does not address. Economy’s place lies within comprehensive development that has liberal orientations. Comprehensive development views economic development as its main or constant pillar which it cannot be without.

The kingdom today aims to transforms its economy from a rentier to a productive one. I assert that through this ambition it has put itself on the right track. This is the case no matter how many people voice doubts and regardless of the opposite claims made by so-called nationalists or Islamists who long for the past.

By comparing South Korea’s successful development experience with Egypt’s failed experience through the Muslim Brotherhood, we can objectively say that economic development must come first

Mohammed Al Shaikh

Political reforms

These people insist that political reform must come first. They practically want us to begin with politics and not with economy. Meaning, they want us to put the cart before the horse. However, many underdeveloped countries rose and made it to the forefront through economic development. This is tantamount to fixing the wagon first before placing the horse in front of it.

The most important experience that succeeded at achieving this development formula is South Korea as it worked on economic reform and on professionally preparing workers. It postponed political reform for later until its citizens became civilized and ready to deal with political participation and its related mechanisms.

South Korea currently competes with the strongest economies and with other countries in terms of popular political participation. People there enjoy prosperity and security although the country does not have any natural resources and imports all the raw material it needs for its industry. It is trained men and women whose skills have been refined that allows the country to prosper.

The Egyptian experience

The Egyptian experience represents the opposite example and it confirms what I am saying. The American-backed popular revolution in Egypt forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down. Elections were then held and the Muslim Brotherhood assumed power of the legislative and executive authorities.

This meant that the Egyptians began with political reform before launching economic reforms. Majority of Egyptians elected Brotherhood whose understanding of economic development is as bad as their understanding of human genetic engineering. A year after they were elected, Egypt with its people, army, security institutions and judges demanded that the Brotherhood cede power.

They were viewed as a group of ignorant people who exploited the Egyptians’ religious emotions and had the Egyptians vote for them not because they are convinced they will be good but because they thought they fear God, as the Egyptians put it.

By comparing South Korea’s successful development experience with Egypt’s failed experience through the Muslim Brotherhood, we can objectively say that economic development must come first.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.