The Arab Republic of Investment

 
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By Osama Diab

Egyptians should not be too harsh on poor Gamal Mubarak. He’s bound to become the president of the ‘many’ entrepreneurs and professionals and not of the ‘few’ who live on less than $2 per day.

17 August 2009

Egyptian investors are worried, uncertain about the future of the country, and since most people are not the biggest fans of the third longest ruler in Egypt’s history (modern and ancient) after Ramsis II and Muhammad Ali, many entrepreneurs been losing sleep since Mubarak officially made it into the ninth decade of his life, and the end of his enduring term, by biological norms, should be nigh.

Amid that vast amount of anxiety among the business elite, Gamal Mubarak comes in smelling like a fresh mushroom and seems to be the way out of this terrible dilemma. If Mubarak Jr takes over, the impressive flow of investment into the country, as a result of the new ‘businessmen’ cabinet’s policies, will probably see no drop. If he  takes over, gated communities in new Cairo and the North Coast will definitely not open for the public to have access to the beaches, running water, reliable electricity, clean paved streets and tree-lined boulevards. Gamal will ensure that such communities will remain as spotless and exclusive as they are now.

Therefore, Gamal seems like the ideal option, or better said, the only option for the ‘many’. Maybe not for those ‘few’ tens of millions who live in informal settlements among garbage and stinking sewage, or the ‘minority’ 40% who live on under $2 dollars a day.

But who really cares, as long as the flow of foreign investment is steady and the World Bank is content? The workers and farmers may not be entirely happy with their wages, but who cares as long as the monthly minimum wage remains 35 Egyptian pounds (less than six dollars) to provide cheap labour to the foreign investor.

Pro-Mubarak (senior and junior) argue that we do not have any other serious candidates or alternatives for what’s soon going to be a vacancy, and that if Mubarak junior wins in fair elections, which of course seems to be always the case in Egypt, he should be allowed to run for president the way any other Egyptian national is allowed to.

This is a very valid argument, but requires a certain amount of nationwide amnesia. We should be able to forget that Gamal being the only one on the scene is actually the result of years and years of crushing the opposition by an autocratic regime, and demeaning any figure that gains popularity. We should also all banish from our minds that Ayman Nour was thrown in jail for the serious crime of challenging Mubarak. I guess we would also be required to fail to remember the fact that Gamal went from being a banker to running the country just because his old man appointed him. We should overlook all this as long as the elections are “fair” and the investors are happy. We should forget about how he made it up the political ladder, and pretend that it was all democratic.

The ‘minority’ of people who are not investors, entrepreneurs, businesspeople, or stock brokers forget that Gamal’s presidency can bring many good things to the average Egyptian as well. With Gamal Mubarak in power, Egypt won’t lose its advantages as a magnet for foreign investments, because labour will remain cheap, laws will remain unenforced, and Egypt, under his auspices, will always remain a friend to the West (who doesn’t need that?). It’s also good to be a citizen of a country that attracts a lot of investors, even if none of the newly created actually reaches them.

There’s no doubt that the presidential elections in Egypt will be fair. There’s also no doubt that Gamal Mubarak will win the vast majority of the votes, again, fairly. After Gamal is elected president, the opposition will claim that the elections were forged and that they witnessed many violations, but it won’t matter and no one will listen to their rantings, as long as Egypt provides investors with cheap labour, no legal hassle, low taxes, and no environmental standards.
Republished with the kind permission of the author. © Copyright Osama Diab.

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