• 22:10
  • Wednesday ,07 November 2012

The anxieties of Egyptian citizens under authoritarian rule

By-Nader Fergany



Wednesday ,07 November 2012

The anxieties of Egyptian citizens under authoritarian rule

 I was invited on a satellite channel to discuss the worries of Egyptian citizens, which reminded me that in 2011 Gallup carried out 148 surveys around the world based on this question: Did you experience any of these feelings yesterday: physical pain, worry, sadness, pressure, anger?

According to the results, the composite measure of negative feelings was calculated to show that some Arab countries were among the highest in the world with negative feelings, especially countries swept by the Arab liberation tide where negative feelings were prevalent even before the uprisings of liberation.
Iraq had the highest level of negative feelings in the world, which is expected because of the barbaric destructive invasion it was subjected to, followed by a horrific occupation for more than eight years.
It was closely followed by Palestine and then Egypt — countries, like Iraq, suffering miserable economic conditions and serious threats to human security.
A survey by the Centre for Social and Criminal Research on the same subject revealed that unemployment, poverty and absence of social justice top the list of concerns of Egyptian citizens.
I would like, however, to address the issue from a different angle.
I believe topping the list of concerns for Egyptians is suffering the consequences of barbaric capitalism that is protected by an authoritarian regime at the expense of the citizenry.
In a recent article published in Al-Shorouk, Omayma Kamal documented how the regime completely sides with businessmen in usurping the rights of workers, and then complains about escalating labour strikes and sit-ins.
But there is another important facet. I asked my local grocer to pick for me between two products, one imported and the other made locally. He chose the imported one and his explanation was that the local one is of poorer quality and more expensive, and its price is rising faster than the imported one.
This means that local capitalists who are protected by the ruling regime are not satisfied with just skimming profits that equal the price of an imported product that have added-on the cost of transportation and insurance to the local product.
We must also realise that many of the local products are originally imported in larger volumes and merely repackaged in Egypt in smaller packages, which makes it blatantly clear it is plundering capitalism. To be more accurate, this is compelling evidence of incompetence which is enough to shut down these projects if there was real competition as required by the theory of capitalism.
I believe the president and his prime minister should focus on curbing rising prices and combating exploitation that crush the browbeaten citizen, instead of tours abroad and at home that they enjoy so much and that hold up traffic. Perhaps that way they would leave a good legacy that the people would remember after they depart — and they will leave one day.
The president should be commended for acknowledging as a candidate the suffering of people during traffic jams. But if solving the traffic problem according to the president is for the Muslim Brotherhood government to increase the number of traffic tickets — as the president suggested in his stadium speech, and the interior ministry is declaring everyday — then they must wake up.
It is now apparent that the convoys of the president and other senior officials that hold up traffic have once again become a major traffic problem. As if the state were the biggest hurdle facing the president’s promised 100 day plan — a period that has passed with little accomplished.
Adding to the burdens of the citizenry is the regime’s persistence in borrowing and begging from abroad. It is the citizen who will in the end shoulder this debt, especially since the deposits the regime is begging for cannot be used in production projects because they are under immediate demand.
Therefore, these accumulating deposits serve only one purpose: hollow boasting. Being proud of the long-term arrangements for debt only means that today’s borrowing regime expects its successors to bear the responsibility for paying it back.
The prime minister announced in Algeria that the Cabinet has started with austerity measures, and we hope that the government’s austerity does not lead to further misery for the oppressed people. Government austerity must begin by cutting down wasteful public spending which at times is foolish.
For example, the bankrupt Egyptian government has 170 embassies around the world, which is almost double the number of embassies of the US, the wealthiest country in the world, which has 90. The state still buys the latest models of luxury cars for the well-connected.
Perhaps the interior ministry should cut costs and reduce the budget deficit by canceling the assignment of luxury cars to assistant interior ministers, at least the ones who are retired and who have drivers, fuel and maintenance costs covered for life. This, in addition to the bonuses in the millions they used to receive every month.
Let us remember that some of the beneficiaries are actually receiving a bonus for life for killing and injuring protestors. It is as if the current regime is rewarding those who killed the honourable martyrs of the revolution, after the Egyptian judiciary acquitted them because of its inability to determine and convict the killers.
We demand some level of justice and respect for the revolution!
There is no better evidence of the reversal in the positions of political Islam after they reached power, compared to their popular stances when they were in the opposition, than their posture towards the racist state that usurped the rights of Arabs in Palestine.
This is evident in the humiliating presidential letter to the enemy Israeli president that refers to a great friendship and love. Meanwhile, discussions omitted that this wretched letter came at a time when evidence surfaced — including Israeli documents and testimonials — that the enemy’s soldiers humiliated and tortured defenceless Egyptian POWs in the 1967 war.
This letter is even more humiliating in light of the disclosure by former US President Jimmy Carter that President Morsi promised him, according to Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, that Cairo will not make any changes to the peace treaty with Israel without Tel Aviv’s approval.
For those who are not familiar with Shimon Peres, whom the Egyptian president shamelessly called a great friend and called for closer ties between his people and the Egyptian people, let me remind you that the young Bahraini activist Maryam Al-Khawaja pulled out of a UNESCO conference honouring her father, Abdel-Hadi Al-Khawaja, whom Amnesty International views as a prisoner of conscience, because the conference was also honouring Israeli President Shimon Peres.
Al-Khawaja’s daughter sent an open letter to UNESCO stating: “Whilst I am honoured that you chose my father, I am also utterly disappointed that you would honour him alongside a person who has been responsible for many human rights violations and should be put on trial, not honoured.”
She also attached a list of the human rights violations and war crimes for which Peres is directly responsible, such as Operation Grapes of Wrath invading Lebanon in 1996 when he was Israel’s prime minister. During that attack the Qana massacre occurred when the UN headquarters was bombed, killing more than 100 refugees and UN peacekeepers, while hundreds of thousands of defenceless Lebanese residents elsewhere had to flee their homes. UN and international investigations refuted Israel’s claim that the bombings were unintentional, deeming them deliberate.
Peres is also known as the godfather of Israel’s secret nuclear weapons programme, and having served in almost all official positions in Israel he is directly responsible for its overall hostile policies, including the building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land.