IMF/World Bank

The revolt in the Arab world is not just about getting rid of authoritarian leaders and dictators. It is also about ending economic injustice and exploitation.

The media would have us believe that the popular discontent is solely due to the dictatorships and repression in the Arab world. But there is more to it than that. A lot of the disenchantment is also the result of people’s hopes being crushed by an exploitative economic system that undermines essential public services, reduces nations to little more than sweat-shops, and concentrates wealth in the hands of a wealthy elite and their well-connected or crony corporations.

After what’s been happening in Egypt, I thought I would draft a memo to dictators and authoritarian leaders around the world to give them some free and unsolicited advice.

Inspiring photo of the day: Egyptian Christians protecting fellow Muslim protesters who were praying at Tahrir Square earlier today - Photo credit: ShawkattRaghib via twitter

Dear Mr Dictator/Authoritarian Leader

Recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere must be giving you sleepless nights or making you feel terribly uneasy.

May I offer a few tips so that you don’t see similar eruptions in your own countries:

Do not suppress dissent

Allow your people sufficient avenues and outlets to express their frustrations, anger, complaints and criticism. You don’t want their anger and frustration to be pent up. Think of these avenues as built-in safety valves. In this respect, free media and a functioning Parliament have a big role to play. Don’t forget to free up the state-run media as well. Get rid of all repressive laws, especially detention without trial, and bring back democracy quickly before it’s too late. Liberate your people!

By now, we are gradually becoming familiar with the poverty, unemployment (especially among youth) and income inequality in Egypt that seems to be fuelling the protests. But what is less well known is that Egypt, like Tunisia, had only recently been viewed as an ‘economic miracle’ after it wholeheartedly pursued standard IMF/World Bank ideas.

(Follow the ‘one million-strong’ gathering in Cairo ‘live’ over Aljazeera here.)

It’s funny that Hillary Clinton now says that Egypt has to”‘reform”. Only in August 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported that Egypt had become Washington’s economic favourite. And last year, the World Bank, in its ‘Doing Business 2010’ report gushingly (and embarrassingly) applauded Colombia and Egypt as the “top global reformers in four of the past seven years”. I kid you not. How wrong can you get? Unless they meant reforms to profit a small minority of the business elite.

Such IMF/World Bank ‘structural adjustment’ policies include privatisation, subsidy cuts, market ‘liberalisation’ and deregulation. Sound familiar?