Why Egyptians did not turn their anger into action
Newton’s third law of motion states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. It seems like this law applies only to traditional physics and does not include the motion of history and societies, especially in Egypt.
Newton’s law has not yet applied to the interactive mechanism between the Egyptian authorities, which have started implementing economic reforms and thus taken difficult economic decisions, and the Egyptian people, or rather the poor and middle classes, who are the most affected by these procedures.
Egyptians did not react to the recent decision to raise the price of fuel by protesting and expressing their anger, as some were expecting. They did not show an equal reaction to the government’s procedures following increases in the cost of many goods and services, as happened in Jordan lately and even in Egypt several times — the best-known example being the famous protests of January 1977. This time, some Egyptians simply thought about the way they would handle the expected price increase, while some others mocked the decision on social media, and others accepted the decision, considering it the only way to ensure the desired economic growth.
This is the third fuel price hike since November 2016, with the cost increasing between 30 percent and 47 percent, followed by a dramatic increase in the price of Cairo Metro tickets, under a reform plan to end support by 2018/2019, according to a program agreed on with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has supported Egypt with a $12 billion loan.
The path the government has taken will probably not change in the future. It is a path Egypt has undertaken and it must be finished. According to what President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi himself and people around him have confirmed, I do not think the government will stop its economic reform program for any reason. Economic indicators were agreed upon with the IMF and they must be achieved.
One of the reasons might be the approach El-Sisi adopted in dealing with his people regarding the thorny economic affairs, which is continuous “openness” through several conferences and meetings.
Abdel Latif Al-Menawy
The government’s adoption of these bold measures has greatly improved the economic situation. The foreign exchange reserves hit a record high at the beginning of June 2018, reaching $44.1 billion, against $16 billion in 2014. The trade deficit has decreased by $20 billion over the past two years.
The IMF recently announced that Egypt was on the right track to achieving a primary budget surplus, meaning the government’s public debt will decrease as a proportion of gross domestic product for the first time in 10 years.
It also confirmed that, while the economic reforms had required sacrifices in the short term, they are critical to stabilizing the economy and laying the foundation for strong and sustained growth. The Egyptian government is committed to continuing energy subsidy reforms to achieve cost-recovery prices for most fuel products by 2019.
The second reason might be the approach El-Sisi adopted in dealing with his people regarding the thorny economic affairs, which is continuous “openness” through several conferences and meetings.
Speeches of other government officials have stressed the need to cut the budget deficit through measures such as the fuel price hike. However, some experts believe there are other means to cut the deficit while reducing the pressure on the poor, such as tax increases.
The third reason is the exhaustion of Egyptians following the wide fluctuations most have suffered from during the political transitions following the Jan. 25 revolution. This situation has led Egyptians to be reluctant before considering any reaction that reminds them of this period, and returning to the starting point.
The fourth reason is the serious fears of previous political experiences that did not satisfy the Egyptians’ aspirations for change, after they got fed up with extremists during their rule, causing the June 30 uprising.
The fifth reason is that Egyptians are frightened by neighboring countries. The ongoing effects of the wars in Syria and Libya might lead to reckless reactions.
• Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy is a critically acclaimed multimedia journalist, writer and columnist who has covered war zones and conflicts worldwide.