The spread of economic freedom, reinforced by innovative ideas and entrepreneurial activities, has created forceful dynamics that generate greater economic opportunity and prosperity on an unprecedented scale in many parts of the globe. Unfortunately, the revolution has largely left the Middle East and North Africa behind.

In the absence of economic dynamism, people in the region have long been confined to extreme concentrations of wealth and poverty, which have set time bombs of political and social instability. Too many people in the region, particularly the young, have been denied economic freedom, which is the key to realizing the hopes and dreams in their hearts.

Indeed, they have suffered from “lost decades” of a vicious cycle of little economic freedom and the lack of chance for brighter future, as analyzed by The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom. While the global average youth unemployment rate is around 14 percent, the Middle East–North Africa region has a youth unemployment rate of 25 percent—the highest of any region.

The young in the region have spoken out loudly, spurring intense and almost leaderless protest. As the unfolding experience of the past weeks in the region has clearly indicated, the obsolete economic system fueled by state meddling and poverty-perpetuating foreign aid has turned out to be no longer capable of quieting the young’s hunger for greater economic freedom.

A critical battle for greater freedom has been raging. It is time to anchor economic freedom in the region.