'$200 won't fix it': Egypt's expats mock initiative to send money back to help economy

'$200 won't fix it': Egypt's expats mock initiative to send money back to help economy
Escaping a weakening economy and authoritarian rule, many Egyptians abroad and residents alike are asking what an initiative to send a couple hundred dollars back will do to actually help the country.
4 min read
15 January, 2023
Egypt is one of the biggest recipients for remittances in the world [Getty/archive]

Egyptian expatriates are torn over participating in a campaign recently launched to send money to their country to help its ailing economy amid a currency crisis and rising inflation.

The "Be Positive" initiative launched by Egyptians living abroad asks fellow expatriates - estimated to number around 10 million - to send $200 each to support their country's economy. Egypt is reeling under a cost-of-living crisis as the pound (EGP) plummets, having reached new lows of over 30 EGP to the dollar earlier this week.

In October last year, the Central Bank of Egypt implemented an exchange rate flexibility, allowing the pound's value to be regulated by market forces in a bid to save an already worsening economy.

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But the campaign has instead been met with pessimism by many, who say it will not make a difference with the current regime in Cairo and its policies. 

Egyptians have sounded frustration over the huge spending on projects they believe will not generate revenue or contribute to helping the overwhelming majority of Egypt’s more than 100 million population, focusing their criticism at President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his government.

One-third of Egyptians are estimated to be under the poverty line.

These multi-billion-dollar projects include the New Administrative Capital, just east of Cairo, which now houses the country’s branches of government. Egypt has long sought to construct new cities to address its population crisis , particularly in in Greater Cairo, but critics argue these are unsustainable.

Egyptians have taken to social media to mock and speak out against the "Be Positive" campaign.

Television host and human rights activist Haytham Abo Khalil wrote on Twitter: "I’ll be the first one to donate. Come on Egyptian expats, everyone donate $200 so we can cover the cost of the new presidential airplane [called] 'Queen of the Sky'," in reference to the jumbo aircraft reportedly costing $500 million.

Shocked at Sisi’s priorities, one Twitter user wrote: "On 10 January 2023, the [Egyptian] Pound began to quickly decline, and the initiative to donate $200 to support the economy was announced. The same day, an urgent meeting was held between Sisi and the prime minister and instructions were given to complete the El Alamein amusement park!"

A US-based former Egyptian Air Force captain and activist against Egypt’s "military regime" wrote on Twitter: "It would be very stupid to donate to a country ruled by one individual who doubled [Egypt’s] debt in 9 years by 4 times and challenged people by building new palaces for himself and cities that only the upper class will benefit from and grant all state projects to the army and continue to rule and appoint his sons to lead the intelligence and administrative oversight and imprison all those in opposition."

Human rights organisations have long complained about Egypt’s poor human rights record, where thousands of political prisoners are being held.

Mocking the security state in Egypt, another US-based expat asked: "Now you need $200 from each Egyptian living abroad. Does that mean we’re longer spies?" adding whether they’ll still hear the same rhetoric from pro-government citizens who tell Egyptians to "stay abroad and not get involved in Egypt’s affairs."

"Where’s the logic in asking an Egyptian living abroad to donate $200 to support the Egyptian Pound and the economy in Egypt which is the main reason that they [the expat] have to live estranged all their life from their nation, which couldn’t offer them a decent life in any way," said another Twitter user.

Egypt already tops Arab countries when it comes to remittances from its citizens abroad and among the top five recipients globally. According to the World Bank in early December, these remittances rose 2.5 percent in 2022 to reach $32.2 billion, up from $31.5 billion in the previous year.