David Hearst writes: “You want to be a first-class nation? Will you bear it if I make you walk on your own feet? When I wake you up at five in the morning every day? Will you bear cutting back on food, cutting back on air-conditioners? …People think I’m a soft man, Sisi is torture and suffering.”
So said the field marshal in a leaked recording of a conversation he had with a journalist shortly before he became president. Little did he know then how prescient his words would be. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s rule has indeed become torture and suffering for Egypt.
He has lurched from one promise to another, each one a glittering bauble dangled over a credulous and fearful nation. The first was the untold billions that Egypt would continue to get from the Gulf states who bankrolled his military coup. He boasted to his aides that their money was so plentiful it was “like rice”, a judgment that now looks dated after the collapse in the price of oil and the Yemen war. He burnt his way through up to $50bn of their cash, loans and oil guarantees.
The second was the international donors conference in Sharm el-Sheikh. More promises but nothing changed.
The third was mega infrastructure projects like the construction of a new capital city costing $45bn or the opening of the new Suez Canal. A year ago, state officials promised the $8bn project to widen the canal would triple revenue in just eight years. In fact, the number of ships has increased by 0.0033 percent, according to one count.
A fourth was the plan to cede two islands to Saudi Arabia, in hope of renewing Saudi financial support. The plan caused outrage, is stuck in parliament and the courts, which in turn has angered the Saudis. [Continue reading…]