by Yusuf Dhia-Allah (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 53, No. 1, Sha'ban, 1444)
The Egyptian tyrant, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi is probably too dumb to realize that he has destroyed the country’s economy in his 10-year misrule. This is evident even from official figures. The Egyptian pound has plunged against the US dollar. Not surprisingly, the cost of living has soared and one estimate puts inflation at a whopping 88 percent.
Bread, the staple diet of Egyptians, is getting beyond the purchasing power of most people, if available at all. El-Sisi blames the war in Ukraine for this situation. This is partly true but it cannot paper over the regime’s gross mismanagement that is hell-bent on pursuing grandiose projects such as the new capital city that has already swallowed $55 billion and counting.
Chicken meat has also become unavailable because of skyrocketing prices. El-Sisi told people to eat chicken feet, if they cannot afford chicken meat! People consider chicken feet as animal waste, not fit for human consumption. Unfortunately, the modern-day Pharaoh does not care.
Yehia Hamed, Egypt’s former Investment Minister in the government of the ousted President (now deceased), Mohamed Morsi, summed up the situation thus: “Despair abounds. Fear is palpable. The sense that the country is collapsing before the eyes of Egyptians is pervasive. And there is no hint at all that Sisi or the government are reassessing this path to destruction.”
The regime has no foreign exchange reserves left. Businessmen are unable to get foreign currency to import goods, adding to the country’s economic woes. El-Sisi and his coterie of henchmen offer only one solution: borrow more money from whatever sources: the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Saudis, Emiratis etc.
The mountain of debt that el-Sisi has accumulated keeps on rising. It has risen by 93 percent in just five years. Not surprisingly, to service that debt, which is now expected to increase by 62 percent from the financial year 2020/2021 to 2023/2024, the country has to borrow more.
It is a vicious cycle that el-Sisi has created. Egypt has to borrow merely to survive and the only way to meet those debt obligations is to borrow more. In the 2022/2023 budget, debt accounted for nearly 50 percent of expenditure.
Like their counterparts in Pakistan, the Egyptian military is more a business enterprise than a fighting force. It surrendered to the zionist entity as far back as 1978. In return for Israel withdrawing its army from the Sinai Peninsula where Egypt cannot deploy its army, the late Egyptian tyrant, Colonel Anwar Sadat vowed to abandon the fight against Israel. What more could Israel want? Sadat got a few dollars as bakhsheesh from the Americans but that was a small price to pay for keeping the largest fighting force in the Arab world from the struggle against zionist Israel.
The zionist army is now deployed in the West Bank where defenceless Palestinians are being murdered at an alarming rate. So, what is left for the Egyptian military to do? Business, of course.
The military has its grubby hands in every business. These include media, entertainment, construction, food, hospitality, essentially everything. Even this would be tolerable had the thugs in uniform shown acumen in any field. People trained to destroy cannot build anything.
So, what is the military up to? Under the direct and personal guidance of el-Sisi, it has focused on mega projects that have resulted in siphoning billions of dollars out of the Egyptian economy without contributing anything to growth.
El-Sisi does not believe in feasibility studies. Had he undertaken any, he would have found that his grandiose plans are white elephants that won’t fly. Take the case of the new “Administrative Capital City” going up in the desert that has cost $55 billion already. The same applies to the expansion of the Suez Canal at a cost of $9 billion. No increase in revenues has occurred.
Besides, with the Iran-Russia trade route, the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) becoming operational in the near future connecting the Eurasia landmass, the Suez Canal would become largely redundant.
Military men always want shiny new weapons. It builds their macho image. The Egyptian military does not want to be left behind other militaries in the region. If the Saudis and Emiratis want to buy weapons, they have the cash to pay for it. But what about Egypt and who is it going to use them against: Israel? Perish the thought.
In the period between 2015-2019, el-Sisi’s regime spent $45 billion on weapons purchases making it the third largest arms importer in the world. While he wants to terrorize the hapless Egyptian people into submission, such massive weapons purchases are not needed to do so.
El-Sisi grabbed power through a coup in July 2013 against the first-ever democratically-elected government in Egypt’s history. El-Sisi’s murderous thugs in uniform perpetrated massacres against innocent civilians outdoing such other tyrants as Zine el-Abdine of Tunisia and Saddam Husain of Iraq.
There is not enough water in the Nile River to wash the blood off El-Sisi’s grubby hands. Even the Pharaohs of old did not indulge in such cruelty. There are more than 60,000 political prisoners in Egypt’s jails where torture is rampant. Most prisoners have reached an advanced age and suffer from ailments such as high blood pressure and diabetes. The regime deliberately withholds medication which has resulted in the death of several prisoners. It is murder by denial.
El-Sisi’s rule can be categorized by extreme oppression of the people, gross economic mismanagement of the economy and the mistaken belief that Egypt is too big to fail. Those that have dished out bakhsheesh in the past—the Saudis, Emiratis and the Americans—may have realized that Egypt is too big to bail.
This appears to be the conclusion of the well-informed Palestinian journalist, Abdel Bari Atwan who reported on a secretive summit in Abu Dhabi on January 18 at which the Saudi de facto ruler, Mohamed bin Salman was conspicuously absent. Is there a message in this for el-Sisi?