Friday, February 11, 2011

Is Egypt's example useful for Ireland?

Astonished recently to see Irish people pointing to the uprising in Egypt as a positive example for Ireland, I thought I'd gather some data on the two countries. Thus we can compare the two and see if Irish radicals are right to demand a popular overthrow of our government too.

Life expectancy
Ireland: 77.9
Egypt: 70.1

Infant mortality
Ireland: 3.5 per 1,000
Egypt: 18.2 per 1,000

Inequality (measured by the Gini Index)
Ireland: 30.7 - 108th most unequal country
Egypt: 34.1 - 90th most unequal country

Access to improved sanitation
Ireland: 99%
Egypt: 94%

Incidence of tuberculosis per 100,000
Ireland: 9
Egypt: 20

UN Human Development Index
Ireland: 5th highest in the world
Egypt: 101st

So indicators of health and standards of living are strongly in Ireland's favour. Perhaps most relevant here is the political situation, however.

Press Freedom (Reporters Without Borders)
Ireland: 9th most free in the world
Egypt: 127th most free

Length of rule by latest leader
- Irish President
Mary McAleese was elected in 1997, has served 13 years and will step down and be replaced with a new elected president this October.
- Taoiseach (Prime Minister)
Brian Cowen was elected as a member of parliament in 1984 and elected to Offaly County Council in 1985. He was re-elected to parliament in 1987, 1989, 1992, 1997, 2002 and 2007. In 2008 he was the only candidate in his party's internal election for leader and thus became Taoiseach. Only three years later Cowen stepped down from leader of the party and announced his political retirement after this February's election, at the age of 51.

- Egyptian (former) President
Hosni Mubarak started in the Egyptian military and was appointed Vice President by Anwar El Sadat in 1975, replacing him as president in 1981. Since then there have been numerous elections, but with claims of fraud by observers. Turnout in the 2010 election was around 10% of Egypt's total population, with scenes of violence recorded at polling stations. It is difficult to know how fair Egyptian elections are, however, since international observers were often prohibited. Ireland's Cowen ruled for three years, Egypt's Mubarak for three decades. Cowen retires at 51, Mubarak at 82.

The Economist's annual Democracy Index
Ireland: 12th best democracy in the world
Egypt: 138th

Ireland has one of the highest GDPs per capita on the planet, with among the best standards of living and a very high degree of individual liberty. Considering Egypt's revolution has cost hundreds of deaths, when Ireland is just weeks away from a general election in which power will change hands without the loss of a single drop of blood, violent protest now seems insane. We have everything to lose by violent instability and the breakdown of the historical democratic process: the Egyptian example has little relevance for wealthy, healthy Ireland.

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