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A protestor calmly indicates her feelings (far left); police using tear gas on a crowd (top); scenes of jubilation at the fall of President Mubarak (below)


Several phases of the Egyptian uprising:


deteriorate further and come under strong inflationary pressures because of wage increases promised to government workers dur- ing the uprising to buy off protestors. Te revolution, going forward, will be buffeted by these re-


alities. Big questions remain. Can the demands for structural economic and political reform and the idealism it has unleashed, keep ahead of a straitened economy coming under all types of pressure? Will attempts to deal with the dominant power of the crony businessmen of the NDP and their allies in the army, merely lead to capital flight as these people seek to protect their assets? And what happens to unemployment for the disenchanted urban youth who made the revolution possible in the first place? Leading opposition figures remain optimistic about the pros-


pects for the revolution and reject any “failed state” prognosis. Te former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, says the Arab world is “a collec- tion of failed states who add nothing to humanity or science” because “people were taught not to think or to act, and were consistently given an inferior education. Tat will change with democracy.” Egypt’s revolution has restored pride and the idea of self-agency.


political structures of the army, particularly its senior members, who will now oversee the transition to democracy while seeking to protect themselves and the other business allies whom the army had helped and worked with over the last 30 years. Te challenges the February Revolution has vis-à-vis the


economy are even more daunting. David Goldman, who writes under the penname Spengler in Asia Times Online, gives the worst-case scenario: “Egypt has no oil, insignificant industry, small amounts of natural gas, and 40 million people, living on less than $2 a day…who are about to become very, very hungry. Without figuring out how to feed the destitute bottom half of the Egyptian population, all the talk of ‘models’ is window-shopping.” Goldman is predicting “a collapse of the Egyptian pound, un- controlled capital flight, the inability to finance a current account deficit in the $15bn range, and chaos in the Egyptian economy”. Tis current account deficit is likely to worsen given the im-


pact that rising wheat prices will have on poor Egyptians. Te country is currently the world’s largest importer of wheat and prices are fluctuating wildly (almost doubling in the last year) due to drought in Russia and China and changing consump- tion patterns in Asia. Also, an important element in balancing the economy was the 12 or so billion dollars that used to come in from the tourist industry, which, because of the revolution, has now more or less collapsed. Finally, the economy is likely to


Nevertheless, the forthcoming search for democratic transforma- tion in order to deliver serious long-term economic transforma- tion will need heavy financial support as well as the starry-eyed idealism of ElBaradei. A limited number of sources exist for that sort of financial aid or “Marshall Plan” for Egypt – Saudi Arabia, the EU, the US, or the new emerging power, China. Te Saudis, given their support for Mubarak, are unlikely to finance a democratic transition. China is highly unlikely, as it would involve an earth-shaking and profound realignment of Egyptian foreign policy and the army, similar to 1973. Tat leaves the West – the EU and US. But to engage, a profound reset in relations with the people of the region would be needed. It is now clear that despite all the speeches about democracy,


the West, for reasons of “stability” and its “interests” (oil, the Suez Canal, Israel) has been freezing and imprisoning the aspirations of millions of ordinary Arabs, or abandoning them to dictators and torturers. Te reason why Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East is that it has been considered normal to connive in the denial of freedom of political choice, assembly, and speech to over 300 million Arabs, partly to protect the rights and security of Israel. Whether or not the Egyptian revolution ultimately leads to democracy and structural transformation of the state, they will need Western money to stabilise their economy in the short term. And the West will continue to need Egypt for its security. But will the US accept the political choices of the Egyptians,


even if those choices are for religious parties, in the way they ac- cept the political choices of the Israelis, including votes for Jewish religious parties? If the Hamas experience in Palestine, where its election victory in January 2006 was not recognised by the US and its Western allies is any guide, then there is much yet still to play for in Egypt.


New African March 2011 | 17


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