Egypt – What Is in Store in 2011?
|Thursday, December 30,2010 17:34|
Egypt has large quantities of gas and petroleum and has started prospecting its territorial waters north of and in the and is exploring the . Egypt is also intensifying the exploration of crude oil in the Western Desert - considered the promising future of the petroleum sector in Egypt . The area of construction is particularly positive and impacts on consumption, employment and manufacturing. Egypt secures most of its foreign currency from tourism and the Suez Canal revenues which reached $389.7 million in December 2010. Prosperity abounds, but who benefits from it?
Plans for development, exploration and production are buzzing and the government has demanded that there is enough natural gas to supply new power stations planned to be completed within the next year. All this is great news for the regime, and the wealthy businessmen who support it; however, the news is not good for the average Egyptian as new stations are being built while Egypt faces a huge electricity supply shortfall.
2011 will be a significant year in Egypt’s history as the presidential elections are slated for September, with many hoping for a change of leadership, the rotation of power, more rights for the masses, more social justice, more hope that change is on the horizon.
Amid the social and political uncertainty of the times, the regime is enjoying economic prosperity and is hopeful that 2011 will bring further economic growth. But only a few per cent of the population benefit from Egypt ’s wealth. Even though Egypt was listed among the top ten countries whose economies were not severely damaged by the , millions of Egyptians still face poverty because economic growth has not trickled down to the working class. More than 40% of Egyptians live on $2 a day or less.
At the same time, food prices are increasing, making it impossible for many Egyptians to make ends meet and many do not have three meals a day. For those who can afford to buy food, many do not have a refrigerator to keep it fresh. Meat is off the menu for many Egyptians and even heavily sweetened tea – the nation’s favourite drink – is a luxury as the price of sugar soars. According to a study by the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, with the current soaring prices, Egyptian families need at least LE1,200 ($207) to survive, however the new minimum wage was recently set at LE 400 ($69) a month. For most Egyptian families LE 1,200 would barely cover basic living costs and would not include medical care.
Another study, conducted by the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM), found that 74.7 per cent of families (in the seven governorates researched) do not have enough money to buy one of their daily meals, and that 2.2 per cent of them resort to selling household items. Some families subsist on only LE 160 a month. Sometimes poverty strikes because the bread-winner falls ill but lack of stable employment – about 10% at present - is a major factor.
The Muslim Brotherhood fills in the gap made by the regime, of caring for the population, by providing cheap medical care and charity for the poor.
Compared to the absolute luxury enjoyed by Egypt ’s wealthier classes, many of Egypt ’s poor live in haphazard residential areas. For impoverished residents from rural areas, these might seem good places to live but many have become a threat to society as poor social conditions and the ready supply of drugs and crime along with the absence of police, have created dangerous areas. One such small house – most of which have no running water – is made up of two rooms, and houses more than seven family members. In such areas, health services are non-existent and garbage and sewage line the streets. These houses are not part of the state’s urban planning.
The people living in these areas dream of getting an education, having enough to eat, finding stable work, and moving out. As many as five families can share one bathroom. United Nations and NGOs say up to 20 million people live in unplanned housing, that does not even have the minimum requirements for a decent life.
What will the future be? Egypt ’s future will be a reflection of its present, and it is all uncertain. Even those who are now leading a comfortable life do not necessarily expect a prosperous future, despite the regime’s promises and grand revenues pouring into it. Until the wealth starts to trickle down to the masses, Egypt will stay in the same predicament.
Some people see but most do not see much difference on the political level, as the regime has done its best to maintain its monopoly on political power.
Egyptians want rotation of power, transparent governance, free and fair elections, a fair political life, a way to support the family, education for all, stable work, a healthy market environment, clean streets, and a decent home for all Egyptians.
Many believe education is the key to Egypt ’s future success, and with increasing awareness, young people are seeing the need for true democracy, something that Egypt is still lacking. But whether or not Egypt can hold onto its dreams or will throw them in the bin as so many people are overwhelmed by the responsibility of simply feeding the family, remains to be seen.