With the Arab spring bringing into sharper focus the long-standing challenges of inequality and unemployment in the Arab world, the question is what to do. It is clear that in the medium term only a dynamic market-based economy can generate good jobs for the unemployed and, importantly, the underemployed. It might seem tempting in the face of popular pressures to expand the public sectors further, but it is not feasible and not desirable. That said: "In the medium term we are all dead" (this was a famous Keynes statement and he actually said it about that favorite economist phrase "in the long run" but it suits me here).
Among the saddest iconic stories to come out of MENA’s rapidly changing political landscape was the first: the dramatic self-immolation of a fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, and how his act was a response to government officials trying to confiscate the fruit he was selling, taking away from this young man the sole means he had found to support his family.
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt have celebrated the values of freedom, justice and human dignity. They have reignited hope in the ability of communities to work together to bring change. They encourage taking risk coupled with a learning spirit.
The challenge now is to sustain citizen engagement and grow the culture of holding each other accountable. Community action cannot be from revolution to revolution. I love how one of Egypt's Shabab AlThawra said to his people: “Now that you have woken up, don’t go back to sleep”. The other challenge is to make sure that the energy does not become manipulated by various players with contradicting values or derailed by certain media stunts.