President Obama is ready to put money behind his rhetoric. As part of his speech on the Middle East and North Africa Thursday, Obama will announce an economic aid package for Egypt and Tunisia — the two countries that have seen dictators actually relinquish power this year.
The package includes $1 billion in debt relief and an additional $1 billion in loan guarantees that will be administered by the Overseas Private Investment Corp. The money would be spread out "over a few years," according to one senior administration official, who spoke in a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Obama will also announce that multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will provide "several billion dollars" in additional funding.
Despite the relatively modest sums involved, White House officials said the economic package will provide "concrete support" for countries taking their initial steps toward democracy. "It's a comprehensive approach, designed to foster economic development in support of democratic transition," one senior official said.
The economies and cash reserves of both nations have suffered as a consequence of widespread protests and changes in regime. The White House emphasized the need for Tunisia and Egypt to address their high rates of unemployment, particularly among younger adults.
Administration officials expressed their belief that increasing trade and employment will not only improve the lives of Egyptians and Tunisians, but provide an optimistic path for other countries to follow.
"If Egypt and Tunisia are able to be successful in their transitions, that provides a powerful incentive for people and nations throughout the region to pursue similar reforms," a senior administration official said.