06/03/2021, 12.21
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Egypt: Democracy, economy and education, the foundations for progress (Part II)

by A.M.A.*

The emphasis on urban development and mega-projects, including the new administrative capital. Covid-19 pandemic has eradicated tourism with heavy losses to the state coffers. The role of the army as a guarantor and the position of the country in the international arena. The desire to share and work towards building the future is growing.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Notwithstanding the monumental new administrative capital built some sixty kilometers east of Cairo. Within one year, the Egyptian State was proud to have been able to erect the biggest mosque and cathedral in the new capital, three years ago. And Sissi attended the Christmas and Easter celebrations at the cathedral honoring the Pope Tawadraus, head of the Coptic Church, as attending the Muslim prayers for the two main Islamic feasts.

It is also there that the Mubarak funeral was hold. Mubarak and his two sons were liberated from jail and freed from any charge, as a sign of the famous Egyptian tolerance temper.

In Cairo many avenues and roads were widened to make an easier reach to the new capital, even if it had to erase part of the famous Eastern Mameluke Cemetery, or lift between fifteen to twenty thousand trees, dating for more than one hundred years in the beautiful suburb of Heliopolis founded in 1905 by the Belgian Baron Empain. More than twelve fly overs have been built on all the main cross roads. The widened streets and avenues have become real expressways or highways impossible for pedestrian to cross. So many deaths happened, that the civil authorities decided to build footbridges with escalators that are not always working so we still see pedestrian, mainly old and handicapped people trying to cross the highways!

One can see also the shanty towns spreading all over around the peripheric boulevard surrounding Cairo for nearly seventy kilometers long. To an extent that a Minister for Shanty Settlements was created, and given to a woman minister for a couple of years!

At this point, many women have been appointed ministers, judges, or governors or provinces, some of them Christian as well. A real attempt to foster women to candidate in parliamentary election is made. The number of women in Parliament has increased from fifteen to fifty, but still it is far from the total number that exceed five hundred.

Among constructions, many new provincial museums and airports have been erected. We have to quote the Grand Egyptian Museum who is due to open near the Pyramids by the end of this year, and the Egyptian Civilization museum, recently inaugurated with the Pharaohs mummies input. Next to the GEM, the Sphynx Airport, will allow foreign visitors to avoid crossing the crowded Cairo to get to the Museum and from there join Louxor, Asswan, the Red Sea and Sinai.

One also has to greet the enlargement of the Suez Canal waterway to help the move of the vessels back and forth at the same moment.

The Corona Virus Pandemy and the lack of tourism have seriously attempted Egypt. The battle against fundamental extremist movements is still on the go, mainly in Northern Sinai, where the extremists attack Christian people, whom part of them flied from Sinai to the Nile Valley. A huge attack happened also on a soufi mosque, making hundreds of victims, since the fundamentalist wahhabite movement reprove and condemn soufism and all that is not radically conform to their beliefs.

We have to add to the pitfalls of the present regime the battle against opponents, the stifling and smothering of intellectuals as well as the imprisonment of an unknown number of people without any accusation or judgement. This is unhappily hampering the regime reputation.

The armed forces are not only the institution of defence for the country, but are also the main promoter in the fields of construction, industry, trade, agriculture, medicine, food industry, and all possible fields of life. It ensures stability in a country where the population increase is one of the highest in the world with limited possibilities to cover the needs.

The Cotton production which is under the monopoly of the State decreased in quality during the last three or four decades. Since a few years, huge endeavours to higher the quality are made to reach the finest level of the renowned Egyptian cotton of yesteryears.

On the Economy level, Egypt succeeded in greatly ameliorating the situation which was disastrous ten years ago. The minimum salary rate has been doubled by the State. Health Insurance is spreading and the Covid pandemic is worsening the health situation. One is amazed that the results of the pandemic spreading are not enormous. In fact, the official published numbers cannot cover the whole situation, since people affected are seeking private medication and try not to announce their illness.  In the popular areas and shanty towns, medical doctors assert that people are immunized to so many viruses that the Covid one is not taking hold. The Vaccine is offered freely for more than three months now. It started with the Sinopharm, and now the Astra Zeneca, Moderna and Sputnik are available.

Egypt is facing also a water problem that can endanger its future. Because of the Ethiopian dam erected on the Blue Nile and the stubbornness of Ethiopia refusing any agreement with Sudan and Egypt. Amazingly this dam in Ethiopia is made with the assistance of Israel and Qatar, two virtual enemies of Egypt.

Life is not easy for the enormous population of the country, prices are high, work opportunities for the young ones are scarce, but at least, there is no starvation, and one can feel all the efforts made for a better life level, and against the terrible corruption mind inherited by tens and hundreds of years.

On the International level, Egypt is regaining its stature, mainly with the recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, for which Sissi was an active and successful actor.

The general tableau and circumstances of the situation in Egypt is still a complicated one. It is not a question of democracy, which cannot be reached by a simple decision, but needs years of education, consciousness and field experience. The Occident reached its level of democracy after hundreds of years of struggle and experiments. For a country where the literacy rate is still low, and the burden of customs high, the main goal is to ensure bread for all and then health care, education, training and work potential, as well as a consolidated economy and a better level for years to come.

Hope for the future is essential. Egyptian people have the knowledge and ability to protest. People are aware and eager to quit the passiveness and lethargy in which they have been plunged for centuries. The eagerness to share in building the future is increasing. The path is still long to reach a convenient stage. But the important is to walk and advance in this path. It is easy to accuse a scape goat of being responsible of all the problems, but it is much hard to move in a positive way. It will take ten more years to analyze the situation and evaluate the developments.

End of Part Two (for Part One click here)

* Anonymous and modest witness analyst, pseudonym of a leading scholar and expert on Middle Eastern issues.

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