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Aid to Tunisia and Egypt: Not exactly a Marshall Plan

As the G8 countries meet in France to discuss support of the Arab Spring, hopes are modest. But a giant Marshall Plan for these new democracies is less needed than is effective aid.

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As the group of industrialized countries that make up the Group of Eight meet in France, few people expect them to announce a Marshall Plan for the Arab Spring.

Their economic and financial support for new Arab democracies will be modest compared with what America offered to help Europe get back on its feet after World War II – a stunning $120 billion in today’s dollars.

But size is not so much the issue today; effectiveness is.

Tunisia and Egypt, which toppled their dictators, have lost economic ground as a result of their largely peaceful revolutions. For their seedling democracies to succeed, they need timely financial and commercial aid that yields tangible results – and that shows autocratic neighbors that the grass is indeed greener on the other side of the fence.

As bureaucracies go, the United States, European Union, and World Bank have moved relatively quickly on the aid front. President Obama pledged $2 billion to Egypt last week. The EU announced this week an extra $1.7 billion for its “neighborhood” budget (about two-thirds of that program has traditionally gone to North Africa and the Middle East). The World Bank, meanwhile, is proposing a package of $6 billion.

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