The question of population and development needs to be framed first and foremost as a question of equity. The articles in this issue address explicitly the matter of gender equity in families and societies, in ways that challenge the notion that Middle Eastern birth and fertility rates can be neatly attributed to Islam and Muslim cultures. Beyond this, we insist that the underlying theme is resource equity. As Philippe Fargues notes, the so-called demographic crisis in many Middle Eastern societies today is a social crisis, arising from the demand for more equitable access to jobs, schooling, housing and health care.
Egypt has been central to providing an Arab cover for the US-led military expedition to the Persian Gulf, in addition to Saudi Arabia. As of December 1990, Egypt’s 15-20,000 troops constituted the third largest force confronting Iraq, after the United States and Saudi Arabia itself. Joint military exercises during the 1980s prepared the way for this US-Egyptian military cooperation, whose value is more symbolic than substantial. In The United States and Egypt: An Essay on Policy for the 1990s (Brookings, 1990), William Quandt surveys the development of the US-Egyptian relationship since the early 1970s, examines the strains it may experience in the 1990s and offers some recommendations to policymakers responsible for managing them.
For most countries in the Arab oil economy, the years 1982 and 1983 have marked an important moment of truth. The most obvious reason for this has been the decline in oil revenues as a result of falling world demand, cuts in production and the failure to hold the OPEC base price at $34 a barrel. As far as the Arab states of the Gulf are concerned, this has meant a reduction in oil revenues from $164.3 billion in 1981 to $111 billion in 1982, while most forecasts for 1983 indicate a further fall to well under $100 billion.  One major consequence has been the cancellation or postponement of a number of major projects; in the case of Saudi Arabia, government expenditure has been cut from $91 billion in the 1982/3 budget to $75 billion for 1983-1984.
The foreign debt of the less developed countries (LDCs) of the Third World now stands at around $600 billion. More than half of this—about $350 billion—is owed to private international banks. Events like the strikes and demonstrations in Brazil this summer, or the labor unrest that triggered the military coup in Turkey in 1980, demonstrate the critical relationship of the foreign bank debt to political developments within the LDCs themselves. The crisis, however, is not confined to the debtor countries alone.
Egypt’s external debt—the sums owed to other governments, private multinational banks and multilateral agencies like the World Bank—increased on an average of 28 percent per year under Anwar al-Sadat, compared to 13 percent over the previous ten years. Sadat’s decade also witnessed important shifts in the origin and structure of this debt, in a manner that paralleled—and to a large extent financed—Egypt’s political reorientation.