Repeating Mubarak's mistakes but expecting different results

Repeating Mubarak's mistakes but expecting different results
Comment: Mubarak's policies of prosperity for the wealthy and penury for the poor drove the Egyptian revolution that forced him from power. Does Sisi really expect any different?
4 min read
25 Mar, 2015
Mubarak's economic policies fuelled the 2011 revolution [Anadolu]

In chemistry and physics, one does not expect different results if one experiments with the same elements and conditions. Awaiting new results in such a case is not only a waste of time and effort but also considered a form of insanity.

Do you remember the period prior to 25 January 2011? Do you remember when Hosni Mubarak was in power and how he governed? Do you remember the components of Mubarak's regime and the biases of the regime over 30 years? Do you remember the reasons for the compounded popular discontent that exploded on 25 January 2011?

Let us remember together. A reminder benefits rational people and those who want to avoid failure. I will not talk about the political despotism, oppression, dictatorship, the closure of newspapers, the imprisonment of dissidents and the torture of Egyptians in police stations and prisons. I will not talk about the administrative failures and the arbitrary decision making that characterised the Mubarak era.

Corruption, nepotism and monopolisation were the main features of Mubarak's rule.

However, as everyone is talking about the recently ended economic conference nowadays, let us remember the main economic feature of the Mubarak era. Let us for example talk about nepotism, as nepotism and corruption used to be rife during the Mubarak era, and most of the large economic activities were reserved for a handful of names and families.

There was a clear appropriation of government assets in addition to large commissions paid on business transactions, investments and privatisation. Corruption, nepotism and monopolisation were the main features of Mubarak's rule, and unfortunately the same nepotism still exists with slightly different names.

Confusing growth with development

The Mubarak regime used to talk about huge investment numbers, which we later discovered to be exaggerations, while loyal media always used to conflate economic growth and development. It is true the Mubarak era witnessed economic growth that was acknowledged by all international economic institutions, however there is a great difference between growth and development.

There was growth that benefitted a small group who held the monopoly on business and controlled the Egyptian economy. There was growth that was only witnessed by those who curried favour with the regime, while normal Egyptians did not even realise it existed. There was growth, but there was no economic and social development. There was growth, which benefitted the few while the Egyptian people suffered in silence.

Gamal Mubarak and his team relied on neoliberal economic policies that encourage privatisation, the sale of government assets, austerity measures, the reduction of public spending, the decrease of the state's economic and social role and tax exemptions to encourage investment.

Gamal and his team used to reduce taxes for the rich under the excuse of attracting investment, while at the same time reducing government subsidies and increasing taxes on the poor. This is despite the fact that in Europe and America, taxes increase the richer a person becomes to ensure a budget for services, education, healthcare and roads. However in Egypt, the land of the poor, Gamal supported the rich and increased the suffering of the poor.

The suffering of the poor is being increased while concessions are made for businessmen and the rich.

The policies of Gamal are what caused the revolution. What about Abdel Fatah el-Sisi? Sisi is not much different; in fact he is worse because the same gang that used to formulate legislation in Mubarak's era now formulates legislation again. Subsidies are being reduced and will soon disappear and the state's economic and social role is being decreased every day. The suffering of the poor is increasing while concessions are made for businessmen and the rich in addition to the taxes that are being reduced for businessmen while being increased for the poor.

Corruption and nepotism have not changed much since Mubarak's era, but have become worse. The old faces are coming back and so are the same old failed policies and the tactics of begging from foreign countries without any desire to implement real development. There is unregulated privatisation, which is worse and more arbitrary than during the Mubarak years. Repression and oppression also increases every day.

All the corrupt ingredients that led to the revolution against Mubarak and his regime exist, so why do Sisi and his supporters believe they can succeed? Do they think that the effects of deceit and fervent but vacuous speeches will last long? If they were of any use, Mubarak would have benefitted from them.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.