The elected president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, who won his office in an internationally monitored election with an overwhelming majority of votes back in 2014 must have been planning a lot of things right.
Why else would some news outlets gear up recently, bashing the president as if there were no government, with fierce vileness obviously attempting to break down solidarity and consent within the Egyptian population, trying to make the country look like ruled by just one person, and most probably hoping to shy away small investors by blurring the big picture for the president’s massive reform visions and reform programs already in progress, intended to push Egypt out of that petty orbit of dysfunctional, corrupt state institutions, it’s been circling onto in reverse ever since the ‘glorious revolution’ of 1952?
Here is one of those pieces mentioned above [http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/sisi-dead-man-walking-161590827]
I stumbled over it by chance on a friends face-book site. It sums up the propaganda counter-narrative on Egypt. Its purpose is not to report or inform its readership, but to draw the readers into believing the country is close to collapse, which according to their arbitrarily picked random facts, interpreted in jolly distortion, would be just a question of a few months.
While this publication, Middle East Eye [MEE], purports to be journalistic in nature, already the headline “Sisi is a dead man walking #EgyptTurmoil” with this added hash tag begs the question: for whom does this still qualify as journalism?
(Behind the MEE is a senior executive with Qatar’s TV network Al Jazeera, who was closely involved with setting up the London news website Middle East Eye, some of whose staff have links to organizations sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood. [http://www.thenational.ae/uae/al-jazeera-executive-helped-to-launch-controversial-uk-website])
President Al-Sisi caught my attention and gained my respect for his integrity. Contrary to his opponents and related news-outlets: Al-Sisi has never made a promise he couldn’t or cannot keep. It is however important to pay attention to what he says.
When he projected the New Suez Canal extension in late 2013, the world had been a slightly different place. While the ‘Arab-Spring’ had been in ‘full blossom’, Syria, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen and even Egypt had not yet to confront, what we all came to know as, the Caliphate of ‘the Islamic State’.
Most criticism with focus on ‘Sisi’s failed economies’ cling to the Suez Canal, as revenues were below anticipated gains. Who in 2013 and 2014 could actually foresee the sharpest decline in world trade activities since 2009 http://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=1230, in parts related to an existential grown battle of antagonistic economical concepts – The New Silk Road vs TTIP http://www.chinausfocus.com/finance-economy/ttip-has-a-greater-global-impact-than-tpp/? – In 2015 the dollar value of world merchandise exports declined by 14%, to US$ 16.0 trillion, as export prices fell by 15%. The dollar value of world commercial services exports also fell 6%in 2015 to US$ 4,754 billion, although the decline was less severe than for merchandise.
An in addition (as a side note) the regional advantage, i.e. Turkey would take from the ‘Islamic State’ oil trade and subsequently the complete overhaul of the whole oil market price scheme: how foreseeable had that been?
Improvements in Egypt‘s political stability over the time alone won’t suffice to alleviate ongoing concerns within the investors-community about the stability of the business climate in the Middle East in general as they are part and parcel of the international investment community, relying on protection where protection can be granted. – War zones carry high risks.
While Egypt has proved its ability, to restore law and order, and a safety in the streets I know from before 2011, there still is the looming threat, every now and then pushed into the limelight and magnified by pundits (to justify their positions in related think-tanks I suppose), feeding into [what I call] the ‘Western Powers Caliphate Dream’, that had been harshly rejected by the people of and for Egypt through their standing up to maintain their country’s national integrity on June 30th 2013, leading to the ouster of then president Morsi, against having this very integrity taken away from the Washington fancied rule of the Muslimbrotherhood, whose predominant political establishment, as public knowledge in Egypt has it, envisions the Middle East more or less as an Entity of Islamic States, led by Sheikhs, Mullahs and Emirs. Thus the Obama administration’s relentless support, covertly and openly, for the Brotherhood, and their firm rejection, to declare the network of useful Islamists a terror-organization.
While in 2011 static minds pondered the ‘unlikely’ but not impossible ‘closure of the Suez Canal’ http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/egypt/suez-canal.htm, in 2014 Alsisi made his bet on the future. https://miskelayla.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/inside-egypt-the-suez-canal-the-stubborn-reality/. He projected to upgrade the Suez Canal from a mere shipping lane to a major hub of the Middle East’s shipping industry, with all related projects and industries. Computer science & shipping academies and Fish farms, maintenance firms and housing, to, in addition, structurally support the creation of a process, to decentralize the country, where still ‘everybody’ wants to live in ‘Egypt’ [as locals call the capital Cairo] or has to go to ‘Egypt’ for major administrative paper works.
The MEE article opens with a quote, misleadingly presented as a leak: “You want to be a first-class nation? Will you bear it if I make you walk on your own feet? When I wake you up at five in the morning every day? Will you bear cutting back on food, cutting back on air-conditioners? …People think I’m a soft man, Sisi is torture and suffering.” Fact is: this statement was on national TV and has cemented the trust, most people still have in the president, contrary to what certain new-outlets want the people to believe. The Egyptians reaction to Al-Sisi’s campaign-speech: Finally not a ‘kalamangi’ [=a person talking empty] but someone, who takes people and political process seriously plus (and that’s important!!) he has a sense of humor. ‘Sisi is torture & suffering’ is clearly connoted to the deprivations, the economical reforms will put especially the vast majority of people through, who enjoy relatively financial stability and can plan their lives accordingly, whereas the low income groups merely make it through the week.
The piece goes on with depicting Al-Sisi as a phony featherhead, humping from one economical adventure to the next, dotted dottled insinuations about their favorite narrative ‘The Military Coup’ while steadfastly ignoring that, which happened in Egypt in 2013 had been a people’s coup, assisted by the military, and giving major infrastructural achievements, reinstating electricity, providing steady and reliable fuel and gas supplies, and housing projects related to evasion of slums not one single mention.
The investment summit in Sharm El-Sheikh is another example. Contrary to bashing pieces, the summit has been very successful. Some of the projects are already work-in-progress, while others are fighting against the bureaucracy and the regulations of the General Investment Authorities [GAFI], since parts of vital regulations changed during the Muslimbrotherhood’s Morsi tenure. The GAFI is now in a thorough rules & regulations adjustment process, hence it takes longer than one would hope for under the pressure of circumstances [= in need of investment]
The government itself has given certain projects a special legislative framework to bypass their own obnoxiously slow and hindering bureaucratic machinery. Not surprisingly, it has taken months to get parliamentarians to support the civil-servant-law to be adjusted to the needs of a modern state, citizenry and economy, rather than tolerating automated promotions and granted rewards.
And it has been this omission of crucial, sometimes only subtle differences, that shapes that part of the opposition narrative, which is unconstructive and merely intends to stir dissatisfaction, if not hoping for turmoil.
What hardly anyone finds important to mention: the whole new Egyptian economical agenda 2030. Have a look at ‘The Golden Triangle’ project. http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/News/15610/18/A-golden-opportunity-.aspx Having witnessed, what this government under president Al-Sisi has already accomplished through imposing a deadline-honoring system, I have not the slightest cast of doubt, The Golden Triangle will be pursued with the same efficiency.
Frequently I’m having conversations with young professionals and students. I find it interesting to hear their views on the state-of-the-country, as from them I can indulge in sometimes diametrically different views from mine on most economical related issues. Form some, all I hear is gloom & doom. I assume they are collecting ‘evidence’ as they intend to leave Egypt. If someone would listen to our conversations, they wouldn’t be able to think we’d be talking about the same country. Their case goes like this: ‘90% of all business is in the pockets of the army. People are being incarcerated, once they speak up. The government is stealing the tax money.’- Obviously hacks have a readership.
Others are cautiously optimistic and trusting. Most don’t seem to care about politics; once the ‘Muslimbrotherhood-rule-experiment’ was over, the aftermath showed the intention and driving forces translating into a clear message: ‘you have been toyed with’. That then has led largely to a politically disaffected Youth. Muslimbrotherhood sympathizers and socialists are however given interpretative authority, as they are airing ‘knowledge’, and reading books has not yet found back its way into academia. The political establishment has yet to convince the ‘ordinary youth’, that a revolution is not about rivers-of-blood in the streets, but about accelerating change through action. – Convincing then through visible action.-
I expect this aspect of inspiring through actions to get more focus in the new parliamentary term.
Hence crucial issues and mega projects are being found seen as ‘megalomaniac’ to cement and justify the endeavor of emigration, or frustration about the revolution’s outcome and social in-justice or complaints about the system in general.
I find it ironic though, that all steadfastly ignore that “Egypt’s economic growth [is about] pro-poor”. Though related to 2015, this is a programmatic statement about Egypt’s economic path. http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/119225/Business/Economy/Egypts-economic-growth-in–will-be-propoor-Plannin.aspx
In case that isn’t answered: It’s currently the middle-class, you’ll find complaining the most.
For some families, it’s about the hardship to deny their offspring a handsome pocket-money as the utility bills and other prices are absorbing each and every Pound, they make and receive despite salary increase. Still the traditional North coast holiday – the popular summer exit for Egyptians ever since I’ve heard of it in the late 60-ies as a child from Egyptian family friends – is feasible. But not without making compromises on spending.
‘Grow first, distribute later.’ had been the economic policy guideline during the Mubarak era. Now that has changed into: “we are keen that growth is linked to social justice. First, the nature of the projects is labor-intensive and they require low-skilled workers. Second, the projects are destined to improve the services delivered to the poor, like the new system of food subsidies, or the housing projects destined for those at the lower scale of income, and to improve utilities in poor rural areas, like sewage systems and drinkable water.”
The self-understanding of making steady profits/growths is broken. What seems not have to be yet absorbed is the dimension of that the ‘reforms [are] aiming at social justice’.
– It should be understood, that I’m talking about broad scale understanding.-
Under Mubarak, in the late years as of 2008, the ‘middle-class’ had been talked into being ‘oppressed’ and ‘underprivileged’, while in reality the people yelled about the ‘corrupt dictator Mubarak’ in the streets, middle-class youth bought the newest cell-phones, new outfits every season, travelling abroad in summer was a self-understanding and the elders got one property after another.
The poor, with no voice and being helpless as most can’t even read or write sufficiently to file a complaint or get heard, had been left out. While ‘everyone’ talked about their pity for the poor, for the most, they had been taken advantage of them through making use of the inexpensive services the poor had offered as drivers, in-house-servants, cleaners, caretakers or such.
In a society like Egypt, where social status defines social conduct, the poorest hardly had the heart to speak up.- It is their hour now.
If you follow development programs in Egypt, you will notice: except for replacing slums with decent housing and extending the Underground network substantially, nothing much happens in and around Cairo or Alexandria.
Most development projects are either in Upper Egypt or in the Delta.
Egypt has to fight off a lot of ingrown problems. Some might take generations to get rid of, some only one generation, some only a few years.
One of this problems, weighting Egypt down, is corruption. While I’m not going into details: the IMF loan program is opposed and rejected by a large majority of citizens who engage in politics, and looked at with suspicion by a lot of un-politicized bystanders.
I see the IMF-loan program in big parts as a mere tool, to confront certain civil servants and private business individuals with a transparency framework, that makes arbitrarily overstepping rules and regulations and under-the-table contracts very difficult, if not impossible.
From my personal perspective, nothing much has changed since I thought: The Future has Begun https://miskelayla.wordpress.com/2016/01/22/the-future-has-begun/. But since I’m having my ears and eyes open I can sense that, as November 8th approaches, the stakes are high and the camps need to make their bets: those who already pledge allegiance for Hillary Clinton as America’s next president might well get rewarded with some Clinton-Foundation-cash. How else is it, that the bashing-Egypt-hacks are back with a new impetus? It has after all been under secretary Clinton’s foreign policy directive, that the Muslimbrotherhood got promoted into coequal policymakers status, with the support of official western media, who have lost their objectivity and are being perceived as propaganda tools by all who know, what really happens.
The outcome of the American presidential election will be important for the whole world. From how I perceive Al-Sisi’s carefully planned policy nationally and internationally: Egypt will be prepared for either scenario.