Friday, 27 May 2011

Egypt: Essam Sharaf calls for patience

Egypt's interim prime minister Essam Sharaf has called for patience. He urged Egypt to give the government time, saying: "It is difficult, even impossible, for us to deal with and realise all factional demands...on an individual basis," he said. "The problem isn't financial problems only. A lot of (the problems) depend on institutional and administrative reform. I hope that you cooperate with us and give us time to meet these demands in a way that is fair for all."

The protesters, however, do not like the way thousands are arrested and tried before military courts; that the government seems to have done so little other than condone the persecution of former regime officials.

Their expectations are impossibly high. There remains a naive belief that somehow Egypt will be able to recover the billions taken out of the country by its former rulers, senior officials and corrupt businessmen and that this will be redistributed to the poor and needy.

It will not happen.

The pledges of aid from international donors may give some temporary relief. But, the underlying economic structural imbalances of the Egyptian economy remain daunting.

Critics of the type of structural adjustment programme proposed by the International Monetary Fund say that it led to labour unrest in the textile industry which, in turn, helped fuel the protests that brought down the regime. But the alternative to neo-liberal economic policies, the kind of state control of the economy that appears to be the default position of the finance minister and others in the cabinet, will not generate the economic growth that is needed to provide jobs for the extra half million young people entering the labour market each year.

Egypt needs some plain speaking. There is hardship, and lots of it, ahead.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

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