Economic Unrest Shakes Al-Sisi Regime in Egypt

The Egyptian economy is on the skids again, as discontent rises similar conditions to Egypt’s economic and social inequalities that helped outbreak January Revolution five years ago that toppled Hosni Mubarak ‘s autocratic regime, said The Washington Post in a report on Wednesday.

The American newspaper published on Wednesday a report tilted: “As Egypt’s economy struggles, calls for protests against al-Sisi grow louder”. The report says, “Food shortages are widespread and prices are soaring. More people are living in poverty and unemployment remains high, especially among the nation’s disenchanted youth. There is a currency crisis, and investor confidence is flagging despite billions of dollars in aid and investment from Gulf nations.”

Ahmad Soliman, a 31-year-old shoemaker said, “We cannot find sugar, rice and many other items.” He continued, “And when we find them, we cannot afford the prices. So we don’t buy as much as we used to do.”

He added, “The more the pressure is the stronger the outburst will be.”

“Whether Egypt’s deepening economic problems trigger another social upheaval remains to be seen. What’s palpable is the frustration directed at Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s government from all corners of society,” said the WP.

In addition, the turmoil is affecting not only the poor but also the middle class and, to some extent, even the wealthy.

“Mostafa Al Naggar, a former member of parliament, wrote recently in Al-Masry Al-Youm, an independent daily newspaper, saying: “We are going through a difficult phase that is being felt by every family in Egypt “The state is responsible for social solidarity. God be gentle with the Egyptians.”

During Mubarak’s liberal economic policies spawned a boom in business and the nation enjoyed annual average economic growth rates of 7%.

But Mubarak didn’t solve the widespread problems of poverty and official corruption, high unemployment and lack of opportunities for young people — reasons that many gave for revolting against the regime.

After toppling Mubarak’s regime, the elected government of Mohamed Morsi was “also heavily criticized for mishandling the economy and failing to rectify social inequalities as he sought to tighten political control,” said the WP.

When al-Sisi, a former general who rose to power after he launched a military coup against Morsi, pledged to enact economic changes and improve the lives of Egyptians. However, his economic policies didn’t only fail in resolving Egypt’s economic problems but they were escalated in unprecedented way in the country’s history.

WP wrote, “Today, inflation has risen to the highest levels in years. There are serious shortages of foreign currency, which is vital to transact global business. Nearly a quarter of the country’s 94 million people live in poverty. The official jobless rate is 13%, and triple that among young Egyptians.”

Moreover, the economic deteriorating conditions forced the government to seek a $12 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund.” The loan program comes with strict austerity measures that promise to make Egyptians’ lives even more difficult in the months and years ahead.”

Al-Sisi said his actions were “inevitable to save the economic situation,” in interviews over the weekend with three state-owned newspapers.

“We are in the bottleneck and we are on our way out, but if we want to get out, we have to take tough decisions, tolerate these decisions, be patient, and the results will be great for the upcoming days and the upcoming generations,” he said.

The WP said that Egypt’s economic problems “can be partly blamed on the collapse of its tourism industry and concerns about terrorism. “The number of tourists visiting the country declined after the downing of a Russian plane last year over the Sinai Peninsula by Sinai Province – a group affiliated to the Islamic State’s(ISIS) as well as a mysterious crash of an Egypt Air flight over the Mediterranean this year.

Also affecting tourism, a key source of foreign currency, “were the torture and murder of an Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo this year and the mistaken killing of Mexican tourists by Egyptian security forces in September 2015.”

Furthermore, “critics have also blamed al-Sisi for grandiose projects that have sucked up billions in aid and taxpayers’ money. They include a large expansion of the Suez Canal, which failed to generate higher shipping revenue, as well as plans for a new, Dubai-like capital city in the desert,” according to WP.

“He has also proposed a bridge to connect Egypt to Saudi Arabia, but that triggered protests and a legal challenge after al-Sisi decided to hand back two Red Sea islands to the kingdom, “said WP.

“I am the one responsible for [this] country, its protection, its future and the future of its sons. If I was just looking for my own interest, there are many things I would not have done,” al-Sisi said.

The American newspaper reported that in the poor and middle-class Cairo neighborhood of Gamaliyah, where al-Sisi grew up, “the frustration is mounting.”

“Shoppers complained about the rising prices of electricity and cooking gas as their salaries have remained the same. The weak currency has driven up the prices of imported goods, on which Egypt heavily relies. Many shops and businesses have shuttered.”

Ahmad Mohamed, 29, the owner of a fleet of trucks said, “People cannot afford to buy anything anymore.” He added, “I used to load my four trucks with goods to be transported to Upper Egypt and the rural areas. Now we can barely load half a truck.”

A gold and jewelry shop owner said,” “People here do not care who is president,” he added, “They only care that they can work and profit under whomever is in power. I used to make much more money three years ago.”

“Who can afford to buy gold jewelry now?” he continued, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared his shop might be targeted by robbers or corrupt policemen. “People now can barely afford to buy food.”

On the other hand, al-Sisi supporters defend his policies, saying he had inherited many problems, such as corruption and cronyism, from his predecessors that are still affecting the economy. But most of the people aren’t convinced by these justifications. Some activist groups have publicly called for protests over the

deteriorating economy on Nov. 11 — dubbed “11/11” in the media known by the “Revolution of the Poor.”

In his interviews, al-Sisi dismissed the possibility of another populist uprising. “Egyptians have more awareness than anyone can imagine,” he said. “So all these efforts exercised by these [anti-state] elements and the people of evil are destined to fail.”

But Soliman said that protests “would give people the chance to release all the pressures forcibly placed on them, and may even give them some hope in the future.”