Although he has been deposed, hospitalized and may yet be imprisoned, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continues to serve his country.
He is the excuse for everything that appears to be going wrong. While even in established democracies and certainly in the workplace it is common practice to blame one’s predecessor for inherited problems, the Egyptians have developed this into an art form.
Mubarak and his supporters have now been invoked to explain the sectarian violence between Muslims and Christians that recently resulted in scores of fatalities and two burned churches as well as the economic breakdown threatening to engulf Egypt.
Political analyst Dr. Ammar Ali Hassan of the Middle East News Agency rejected the possibility that the Muslim attackers were religious extremists, and said they were more likely allied with Mubarak.
"We still have many people who belonged to Mubarak’s regime and it’s in their best interest to trigger conflicts like these and keep them alive," he said. According to this theory, Mubarak’s old army buddies who are in control, are tacitly encouraging Muslim extremists to create a backlash against democracy.
However, in the same breath Egyptian liberals are now regretting the early date for elections that puts them at a disadvantage against the Muslim brotherhood.
Mubarak also features as the major villain in the economic difficulties besetting Egypt. Tourism, an economic lifeline, is down by 50% as is private direct investments. Inflation is up by 11%, reflecting the global rise in food prices. The unrest in Egypt has resulted in an economic loss of $2.5 billion by shutting down production and because the government has given the people unemployment compensation for the weeks that they were demonstrating for the ouster of Mubarak.
Striking workers are demanding higher wages, although the Egyptian finance minister Samir Radwan is claiming that such raises should be linked to productivity, explaining that higher wages and the fact that Chinese workers are 3 times as productive as their Egyptian counterparts will decrease Egyptian competitiveness.
Fortunately, there is Mubarak, and if one could repatriate the scores of billions that the Mubarak clan is alleged to have stolen, it would tide things over nicely.
So far, despite the fact that the Mubarak sons have been in jail for over a month and Mubarak’s wife has joined the ranks of the incarcerated, the great treasure hunt is not proceeding as planned. The always-helpful Swiss are willing to cooperate in returning some of the Mubarak monies (under $1 billion) providing that the Egyptian government can demonstrate that these funds were obtained illegally. No one knows how long that will take.
In the meantime the Egyptian government is pleading for international assistance. It wants soft loans from the IMF and World Bank without conditions. The United States, whose cupboard is bare, is willing to forgo $1 billion that the Egyptians owe the United States, but will not add new money. This partially explains the overtures that Egypt is making towards Iran.
As an Egyptian blogger told CNN.
It’s also worth mentioning that there are talks that the US could cancel $1 billion of Egypt’s $3.6 billion debt, but nothing concrete. Saying we want to restore diplomatic ties with Iran might help speed up that decision.
This maneuvering will only delay coming down from the dizzying heights of democratic demonstrations to economic reality.