Young people were the fuel of the revolution, but many of them are currently unemployed (Getty)
On the edge of Tahrir Square, Khaled Abdel Raouf sat on a sofa overlooking the wide square, remembering his university comrades, who were martyred close to him, during the outbreak of the January 25, 2011 revolution.
“Live freedom social justice”. Slogans that the young man in his thirties chanted at the time with the demonstrators who flocked from all directions to the center of Tahrir Square, after the hordes of security forces fled, after they beat thousands of them with batons and rubber bullets, and others from a third party lurked in holes above the buildings surrounding Tahrir, firing, No investigations pursued them, and no one knew about them until now.
The man bemoans a revolution that many betrayed, as some of them stole their dreams in the hope of wealth and power, and his pain is that the people longing for freedom have increased their thirst for it, and are living the worst living crisis that threatens their life and future.
Fields of cheap goods
Within sight, the university graduate, who recently obtained a job as a conductor in a sweet shop in the center of the capital, sees thousands of people jogging on traffic lanes, the signals of which conflict with the movement of citizens and cars, and others look at the newspapers lying in front of the famous newsagent in the square, preaching the “government’s fight against high prices and its provision.” Discounted goods for citizens in Ramadan.
Abdel Raouf mocks the One Voice and One Address newspapers, which no one pays attention to anymore. Do not write about the hungry who have disappeared from the bread lines, to reserve their places in front of vehicles roaming the streets of the capital, belonging to the “Wataniya” companies owned by the army, and “Aman” affiliated to the Ministry of Defense. Interior, and consumer associations owned by other ministries, to obtain any commodity that feeds their children.
Abdel Raouf marvels at the vast difference between those who went out to the square in the distant past, seeking to provide bread subject to dignity and freedom, years ago, while the economic conditions were better, and the people are now rushing to the squares where cheap goods come for exhibitions or mobile cars.
Abdel Raouf says: The revolutionaries were not hungry for bread, however, they went out to support the poor, while the rich and the poor now flock to the discounted goods, after they were shocked by the high prices and the scarcity of goods, which caused them anxiety about an uncertain future, and pushed them to boil.
The words of the young man in his thirties summarized an economic situation that witnessed violent coups, aimed at changing the business environment and creating a new social and political class that controls the financial and business market.
Over the years, laws have changed, allowing the regime to entrust the implementation of public projects directly, without a financial ceiling, or fear of an accountability authority. The role of parliament and oversight bodies disappeared, newspapers were censored, and businessmen’s associations were restricted, so the entire economy revolved around orders from the presidency, implemented through the security services companies of the army and the interior, and a little from the public sector.
The role of the private sector declined, it was paralyzed from investing in agriculture, security and health crises led to a deterioration in tourism conditions, and the industry was severely affected, with violent fiscal policies that led to the deterioration of the value of the pound, and the rise in inflation rates to unprecedented numbers.
The erosion of salaries and the difficulty of living
The “Namibo” website, which specializes in price statistics, monitors a continuous erosion of the average salary of Egyptians, since 2012, to reach the year 2023, to a level lower than bankrupt Sri Lanka, and Ghana, which is on its way to bankruptcy, and below the level of Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela, which witnessed two coups, and Nepal, which has scarce resources. Populous Bangladesh, corruption-ridden Algeria, and Uzbekistan.
The site estimates the average cost of living of 4 individuals at about $274.3 per month, indicating that the average income of a four-member family reached $328.3 in Egypt in 2012, then decreased to $254 in 2013, and remained fluctuating throughout that period between ups and downs, without exceeding The starting point, to settle at $ 234.8 in 2022, with an expected deterioration to $ 134.6 in 2023.
The report reflects the serious transformations that the economy went through, as the state’s resources were directed to invest in real estate projects, transportation and electricity roads, which absorbed about 8 trillion pounds, during the period from 2014 to 2022, according to presidential statements.
a jump in debt
The government expanded obtaining foreign loans, increasing the volume of external debt from $42 billion in 2013 to $157 billion in mid-2022, except for loans obtained by public companies and banks that were directed with a guarantee from the Ministry of Finance, to pay off the government’s obligations to creditors or finance programs specified by instructions. presidential.
The ministries have turned into executive bodies for the plans that were drawn up in the Presidency Institution under the direct supervision of the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces and its subsidiaries. Experts described them as projects that are not economically feasible or useless, and can be postponed, including the expansion of the Suez Canal branch, and the expansion of power plants. , in excess of the demand in the country, the electric train, the monorail, the construction of towers, and government headquarters, except for presidential palaces, bridges, and vast roads, which are redundant with the new urban expansions.
Experts at the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies confirm that the absence of economic vision and community participation in decision-making has led to a sharp deterioration in the Egyptian economy, contributed to the erosion of cash reserves and pressure on the currency, and raised the level of debt to unprecedented rates, until it “became unable to generate opportunities.” new jobs”, and workers and graduates in governorates that had not known unemployment before, such as Damietta, entered the quagmire of the unemployed.
The financial institution “Fitch” expresses its concerns about the fragility of the state’s financial position, at a time when living expenses have increased and cash reserves have dwindled, and the value of the pound has declined, losing about 60% after the first flotation in 2016, and another 75%, through two flotations in 2022, and a new 7%. Early this month.
Fitch expects, in a report issued two weeks ago, that the government’s monetary policies will lead to an increase in the cost of debt servicing, an escalation of fiscal pressure on the public budget, more reliance on external financial measures, and a reduction in investment spending, which will further affect economic activity and raise costs. living, and “raises fears of an outbreak of social unrest within a period of 12 to 18 months” in Egypt and the region.
The hegemony of the IMF
After the financial crisis intensified, the government took urgent measures to rationalize expenditures, including banning the travel of its members and officials abroad, without prior permission from the Prime Minister, postponing new projects that require dollars, and delaying funding for anything unnecessary. In front of the escalating risks of the state’s inability to pay debts if the financial situation does not improve, the International Monetary Fund obligated the government to sell the assets of companies affiliated with the army and the public and government sectors, and put them in a designated account in the Central Bank, which guarantees the accumulation of cash reserves to pay off debts and restructure the economy.
The conditions included limiting the interference of the army and sovereign agencies in managing the economy, removing the exemptions granted to army companies, security agencies, the public sector and economic bodies in which the official sector participates, and restructuring the industrial land allocation system by next June. The conditions aim to publish the names, salaries, and bonuses of company heads, and the budget of companies and the state, and review them periodically by fund experts and those who request them to enhance transparency and governance, by forcing companies and agencies to pay the value of water and electricity according to the cost, and preventing the central bank from subsidizing bank interest for industrial and agricultural projects, real estate, and tourism.
The IMF experts know the government’s ability to prevaricate with regard to the privatization of companies affiliated with the sovereign apparatus, in a country run by deep institutions, which was able to change the course of a huge popular revolution, and bring about radical shifts in the management of the business community, in favor of the new elite supported and coming from the security and sovereign institutions, however. They accepted the government’s approval of commitments that put the citizen in the midst of severe crises.
The government pledged to reduce subsidy plans amounting to 361 billion pounds during the current fiscal year ending in next June, through several paths that include doubling the increase in the fuel price that moves every 3 months by about 25 piasters per liter, to doubling this amount, and removing the maximum of 10 %, to what is decided by a ministerial committee, to be held monthly under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly, until the government completes the full liberalization of fuel and energy prices within a period not exceeding 3 years.
In-kind support will be converted into cash, and limited to very poor families, through “Takaful and Karama” programs, while middle-income families will receive income tax cuts. The government will include businessmen in the boards of directors of public schools, to help the government provide the necessary financing for schools, without increasing resources from the general budget, which will pressure citizens to spend on private education.
The winds of inflation
The citizen has fallen into severe crises, driven by the high winds of high prices that crush a third of the population, who represent the middle class, who can barely afford to provide their requirements of daily commodities, a few education expenses and going to doctors. This class rolls down to the last, poorest third, who is unable to provide two satiating meals per day, according to the World Bank classification of poverty, without standing in the queues for goods distributed by the Armed Forces, the Interior Ministry, the Supply Commodities Authority, and the initiatives of the Chambers of Commerce in the governorates.
And at a time when 60 pharmaceutical companies asked to raise their prices by 25%, with the unprecedented decline of the Egyptian pound, reaching about 30 pounds against the dollar, the government is considering distributing bread at cost, to those deprived of food support, and those who will leave the subsidy system, according to its pledges with the IMF during The next stage. The government is interested in implementing an agreement that removes it from managing 79 production and service sectors, preventing it from investing in the agricultural sector that most employs workers, and speeding up the sale of profitable factories to international partners, and through a sovereign fund, its assets were raised to about 400 billion pounds, last month, in preparation for its full supervision of the sale of assets. The public sector is for foreigners and in the stock exchange, according to legal immunity and the support of the Constitutional Court, so that only the seller and the buyer can object to its transactions.
The government fortified its centers of power, in the face of those who reject the dominance of sovereign institutions in managing the economy and selling the wealth of the people. Nevertheless, it stands unable to pursue the repercussions of an escalating financial crisis, and announces itself in daily rises in food prices, which reached the end of last December, by 30.9 percent. %, with food and drinks, 40.4% for milk and eggs, and 30% with meat, while cereals and bread came on the list of increases by 52.1%, according to the government’s Statistics and Mobilization Agency.
The pound fell
Deutsche Bank expects, in a report issued last week, that the pound will continue to decline against the dollar, at rates ranging from 10% to 33% in the coming weeks. This is consistent with the analyzes of other financial institutions, which stated that the real value of the pound is still 25% lower than the rate currently prevailing in the markets.
Khaled Abdel Raouf, that young man who participated in the January 25 revolution, learned some of the principles of economics at the university, which made him monitor the increase in unemployment rates, after the economy became run by institutions that were wasteful of its resources, and directed it to more imports, to benefit from urgent loans, and employed them in the industry of the class A new one linked to interests and the deep state, turning against the revolution, and spending billions on securing fortresses that prevent new demonstrations of anger, in Tahrir Square.