Development as Freedom: Future of Egypt

By Ali Younes

Mohammad Hosni Mubarak, former Air Force General became president of Egypt after the assassination of President Mohammad Anwar Al Sadat by Muslim extremists on 6 October 1981, resigned from office today 2/11/2011 and assigned his presidential powers to a military council made of the leaders of the Egyptian military.

President Mubarak, became the longest serving president of Egypt since Mohammad Ali Pasha, who ruled Egypt from 1805-1849. Mubarak’s rule, since he assumed power nearly 30 years ago, has been characterized by his authoritarian grip on power and his reliance on Emergency laws to govern Egypt and curtail civil liberties and personal freedoms. Under the “state of emergency” his government had absolute and uncontested powers.

The "state of emergency law" is used by the government to mainly attack the Muslim Brotherhood and any other political party and deny them to formally participate in the elections. In using the Muslim Brotherhood as a “scarecrow” to counter pressure from the US or the European Union to end the emergency laws and allow democratic reform to take place in Egypt, the Mubarak regime was able to hold on power for such a long time amid wide spread accusations of corruption and government oppression.

Declining Country

Mubarak regime almost since its genesis after the assassination of former president Sadat has been dependent on US political, economic and military support. According to the latest reports on Egypt by the Congressional Research Services, “Egypt under the Mubarak regime has been a country in decline.” Though, the US strategic objectives in the region view Egypt as key element in securing the US security interest in the region; the Egyptian role, however, is in tandem with that of Israel whereby Egypt functions as a junior partner for the US and Israel as far keeping the Camp David treaty intact.

Moreover, the Egyptian role is instrumental to prevent another regional conflict from taking place and in the process, therefore, ensuring a US strategic objective which is to remove Egypt from the Middle East theater as a potential threat to Israel.

As a reward for Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel, Egypt enjoyed US largesse of foreign aid alongside Israel, of about $1.8 billion annually, though not as much as Israel’s $3 billion, and markedly without the preferential treatment Israel gets from the US governments and the US Congress.

The Egyptian Economy

Under Mubarak, Egypt population almost doubled to 80 million people strong, from just 43 million when Mubarak took office 1981. Poor economic planning and widespread corruption led to general decline of the Egyptian state in terms of stature as a former leader in Africa and among the Third World countries, to a country that cannot influence its own backyard in Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea or help the Palestinians cope with Israeli unchecked political and military supremacy in the region.

Several African states that share the Nile with Egypt decided, most recently, to sign a treaty without Egypt or Sudan which would allocate to them more of the Nile waters at the expense of Egypt which according to 1956 treaty, when Egypt commanded the respect and was the leader of the African and the Third world countries; allocated the majority of the Nile river waters toward Egypt’s needs. The new treaty if it takes hold, will threaten the existence of Egypt as a viable state in the region.

According to the World Bank estimates for 2010, Egypt a country 80 million people, has its total estimated Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at about 188 billion USD ranking 41 in the world, behind Israel, a country of only 7 million people whose GDP is about 195 billion USD and ranks 36 in the world. The average annual income of an Egyptian citizen is less than $6000.00 per year compared with almost $ 28.000 per year in Israel. Israel not only beats Egypt in economic numbers such as world and regional economic ranks, but also political and military strength. Egypt lack of transparency and democracy bred a culture of corruption and stagnation and therefore prohibited real economic growth and political stability.

Development as Freedom

Egypt’s future depends on building a modern economy whereby economic freedoms for ordinary Egyptians will be able to sustain development and prosperity. Economic development should be considered as a right, like any other right such as the right to have free speech, to assemble freely and the freedom of religion.

Currently, however, the challenge for Egypt is great. When compared to the regional powers such as Turkey or Iran, Egypt is no match to either one. Turkey for example is the only modern economy in the entire region and ranks 17th in the world, and the only true fighting force and modern army by NATO standards and a rising international power. Iran, though forced to pay more attention to US threatening gaze which forces it to divert more resources to counter it, it is nevertheless a country on the rise economically and military on the regional level.

Egypt, therefore, will most likely continue to remain an American vassal state or fall in the Russian sphere of influence if its new leaders did not plan to revive Egypt as a regional political, economical and military powerhouse. This can only be achieved if the country’s new leaders treated economic development as a freedom among other freedoms the Egyptian people deserve.

– Ali Younes is a writer and a Middle East analyst based in Washington D.C. he can be reached at: ali.younes@charter.net.

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