Excessive population at heart of egypt chaos
A population that has grown larger than the resources required to sustain it lies at the heart of Egypt’s current political turmoil, according to Sustainable Population Australia (SPA).
Egypt experienced an ‘Arab Spring’ uprising in 2011 but recently the military has sacked democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, leading to riots in which hundreds of people have been killed.
SPA National President, Ms Jenny Goldie, says Egypt’s population grew way past its ability to feed itself domestically and only recently was importing 40 per cent of its food and 60 per cent of its wheat.
“Egypt’s population is now 84 million, three times as many as 50 years ago,” says Ms Goldie. “It is still growing at a rate of 1.9 per cent – a doubling time of 37 years – and shows no sign of slowing.
“For many years Egypt could pay to import food with profits from exporting oil. Its population grew, however, and with it domestic demand for oil, to a point where oil consumption finally exceeded production. Oil exports dried up and with it the revenue to pay to import either food or oil,” says Ms Goldie.
Egyptian governments have long subsidised food and attempts by previous governments to remove subsidies have led to social upheaval. In recent decades, fuel too been subsidised though the new regime is trying to reduce subsidies overall. Donations of oil from United Arab Emirates (UAE) this month, along with promises of further aid from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will help in the short-term.
“There is no long-term solution, however, for Egypt other than to stabilise and reduce its population,” says Ms Goldie. “Revenue from natural gas exports will also dry up before long, leaving that from tourism and Suez Canal taxes as Egypt’s main means of buying in food and oil. Even if new reserves of oil are found in the Western Desert or the Nile Delta, it is only a matter of time before they too will dry up.
“The basic principle remains that no country can grow in population beyond its resource capacity. If it has to export a commodity in order to buy in food, then that commodity has to be available indefinitely. Countries, too, should keep in mind that food may not always be available on the world market, thus self-sufficiency in food should be the aim. As with Egypt, that may well require not only stabilisation but reduction in population numbers.”