Iris Boutros

31 Articles

Iris Boutros is an economist and strategist. She focuses on growth, impact investment, and decision-making. Follow her on Twitter @irisboutros

Rotating Banner

Latest by Iris Boutros


Iris Boutros

Whose economic president?

The opportunity for presidential hopefuls to announce their intentions is now. So far, two have made themselves known, former Minister of Defence Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Nasserist politician Hamdeen Sabahy. Perhaps others will announce their candidacy, but it is unlikely that any will greatly change the contest. Most expectations are that Al-Sisi will be elected …


Iris Boutros

Disappointment, in football and life

Sunday was a bad day for Manchester United footballer Wayne Rooney. After his side’s crushing defeat to Liverpool at their stadium Old Trafford, the striker said: “It’s a nightmare. It’s one of the worst days I’ve ever had in football.” Disappointment can be hard to get over and often has a lasting impact. This is …


Iris Boutros

South Africa’s youth employment bill

In May of 2012, a violent clash erupted between protesters and the opposition. Although this sounds like a fairly common news report from Egypt these days, the incident in fact took place in South Africa. The Democratic Alliance (DA), the main opposition to the ruling African National Congress (ANC), took to the streets to march …


Iris Boutros

‘Let them eat cake’, part 2

When Gouda Abdel Khalek was Minister of Supply in March of 2012 he made a very “novel” suggestion— not the good kind of novel. At the time, Egypt’s food subsidy programme supplies were woefully insufficient to feed the millions of Egyptians benefitting (in theory) from the assistance. With some governorates having no rice for distribution …


Iris Boutros

“Let them eat cake”

“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” or “let them eat cake,” as the traditional translation of this French phrase goes, is a timeless symbol of leaders that are out of touch with the realities and struggles that the poor in their societies face daily. Although likely untrue, this famous phrase is attributed to Queen Marie Antionette …


Iris Boutros

The difference between Reform and reform

“To better serve farmers.” The goals are a more productive agricultural sector and improved food security for Egypt’s population. Key is improving the services of the Principal Bank for Development and Agricultural Credit (PBDAC), said Minister of Agriculture Ayman Abu Hadid, speaking on the sidelines of the 10th Ministerial Meeting of the International Centre for …


Iris Boutros

Meet Reem

Reem is a cleaning lady and a mother of four. She has been married twice though neither ex-husband supports his children financially or otherwise. Reem is on her own raising her children. Reem is among the working poor. Although she works full time, she barely meets basic needs. All four of her children show signs …


Iris Boutros

Benevolent dictator

South Korea has quickly become one of the world’s economic powerhouses. Growth of its real gross domestic product (GDP or the most common although imperfect measure of a country’s economic performance) was an average of 8% from 1962 to 1989. Interesting and quite relevant for Egypt today, the South Korean experience of rapid growth occurred …


Iris Boutros

Englishman in New York

Would you like this delivered? It was a normal question in Cairo. But in Brooklyn, New York, my friend was a little surprised. New York City residents do boast about being able to have anything delivered. But, if McDonald’s doesn’t have 24-hour delivery, how much can they really boast? After a trip to the other place he calls home, an Egyptian-American friend was talking about the conveniences he enjoyed while being back in New York and how they compare to Cairo. …


Iris Boutros

Inclusive entrepreneurship

  Gedety was too good to be true. Yasser El Zahhar, its founder, had the idea to start a social business that would employ non-working Egyptian women to make products that working Egyptian women could use to make quick, but healthy meals for their families. All he would need to do is buy his agricultural …


Iris Boutros

Will women Rise Up as Egypt’s entrepreneurs?

  Rise Up, Egypt’s first major entrepreneurial summit held in Cairo on November 24-25 was a resounding success. It brought together many different and important players from the entrepreneurial ecosystem: investors, accelerators, corporates, civil actors and entrepreneurs. Between the panels, talks, workshops, hackathons, makeathons, and ideathons, it was hard not to be inspired or to …


Iris Boutros

The social businesses to turn Egypt’s black skies blue

It’s that time of year. Black skies over Cairo and all over Egypt’s Delta mean the rice farmers are burning their straw. They will be burning about four millions tonnes of rice straw these recent weeks so they can prepare their fields for the next planting season. While we’re all struggling a little bit harder …


Iris Boutros

Egypt’s veil of ignorance and the social contract

“[A]pply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? …


Iris Boutros

Powering economic equality: GE, Ashoka Changemakers and social entrepreneurs

Three social entrepreneurs will receive cash prizes from GE and Ashoka Changemakers in the Women Powering Work competition for innovations that will advance economic opportunities for women in the MENA region. Better integrating women in the labour market is good for all. When women have more cash, they better invest in nutrition, health and education. …


Iris Boutros

Egyptian female youth and their labour market

Recently, I was stunned. I had quite a surprising experience while interviewing a young, Egyptian woman for a basic entry-level analyst-type position. From my perspective, the interview was going well. The young woman was bright and seemed to have many of the qualities I was looking for in a candidate. As we were wrapping up, …


Iris Boutros

Getting in the way: politics and doing business in Egypt

“If it bleeds, it leads.” That news industry fundamental is Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou’s October 7 morning business challenge. The leading stories by news agencies all over the world about the clashes that erupted in Cairo and other parts of Egypt on 6 October, Armed Forces Day, make his job more difficult. The repeated …


Iris Boutros

The Egyptian and Californian tomato farmers and the galabaya mafia

“I am a farmer. My father was a farmer. My grandfather was a farmer. But I only now learned how to farm.” These are the proud words of an Egyptian small farmer whose tomato yields topped those of a typical Californian farmer. And proud he should be. He produced 82 tons of tomatoes per feddan …


Iris Boutros

The ‘minimum wage’ defeat for ten million

There have been mixed reactions to this week’s announcement of a new public sector minimum total income of EGP1,200 per month to come into effect in January of 2014. Many are unsatisfied – unsatisfied with the EGP1,200 figure, the target of total income and not wage, or the meeting of the social justice objective. Some …


Iris Boutros

Education, a waste of money?

“Zahma moot, (it is very crowded) and it’s not yet 9 AM.” The taxi driver is complaining. Traffic is already gridlocked early in the morning (yes, Egyptians consider 9 AM early). And then he asks, “how bad is it going to be when schools open?” It got me thinking; maybe schools should be cancelled all …


Iris Boutros

Stop the battle cries, people need hope

The gas bill collector cried at my door. He is not a young man but an Egyptian man in his mid-forties, who is a husband and a father. Culturally, men are not supposed to cry, but nevertheless, he did. He fought the tears in his eyes and the lump in his throat and lost. He …


Iris Boutros

More than 700 million worth of positive signals in Egypt

The ‘Egypt Support’ Fund, the 306306 account, has exceeded EGP 700m according to Ashraf El-Araby, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, in the less than two months since its creation. Two other similar funds had been established since the start of the January 25th Revolution in Egypt with comparatively little success in fund raising. I …


Iris Boutros

Egyptian opinion on sit-in dispersals: Finding truth in reported facts

A recent poll suggests that 67% of Egyptians are “satisfied with the manner” in which security forces dispersed the sit-ins at Rabaa Al-Adaweya and Nahda Square. Meanwhile a different poll suggests that 79% of Egyptians believe the “massacres” on 14 August were “crimes against humanity”. These two polls seem to be presenting contradictory facts about …


Iris Boutros

Avoiding austerity, Ahmed Galal is betting on Egypt’s economy

Egypt’s new Minister of Finance, Ahmed Galal, has chosen. He prefers a strategy of stimulating the economy over a focus on austerity. This is bold. It may not seem like it, especially in the midst of the manly, grand ultimatums we have seen in the last month, but in economic terms, it is. Pushing for …


Iris Boutros

Opportunity as social justice

Interim president Adly Mansour gave an excellent interview on state TV Saturday. He was very frank and clear about major challenges Egypt faces. A high priority for him is the implementation of the law on minimum and maximum wages. Setting a minimum wage is the government trying to guarantee “bread”. This is the minimum level …


Iris Boutros

First the push, then the pull

Economies, like relationships, require a good feeling. The best relationships draw you in, and you really enjoy the happiness and value  you get from them. Less good ones can drive you away, and while you get something out of them, you are not very drawn into them. Economies are kind of like that. Some pull …


Iris Boutros

Information, not democracy, is necessary for a strong economy

How democratic last week’s events in Egypt were will continue to be debated. Democratic or not, this is an excellent opportunity to set the economy in a better direction. Information will be critical for improving the economy. It will also give credibility to these events as being part of a democratic process. Democracy is not …


Iris Boutros

Police uniforms and accountability

People are angry and protesting in Egypt, Turkey, Brazil, South Africa, Greece, Spain, and many other places. But it was the protests in Berlin, Germany a short time back that caught my attention. It was not the issues people were protesting about, but the police uniforms that were striking. It was a simple but brilliant …