08 June, 2011

A return to the past? Egypt's neoliberal counter-revolution

In a harshly worded statement Egypt's "interim government" led by Essam Sharaf - a former member of the influential "higher policies secretariat" of the ruling party NDP - today vowed to begin enforcing the "anti-strike law" that was issued in April and bans any strikes or protests that disrupts the economy (in contradiction with international treaties signed by Egypt that confirm the right of workers to resort to peaceful strikes to press their demands on employers).

Shortly after the statement was issued on the governments web page, Central security forces and plain-clothes agents descended on tenant farmers that had been staging a peaceful sit-in outside the Cabinet, protesting years (or rather decades) of displacement and ill-treatment by the state. Several farmers were arrested and hauled into police vans, according to Nora Shalaby who was there and took these pictures:

These images are a dark reminder of the state of things before January 25, when central security forces in cooperation with plain-clothes agents and thugs routinely clamped down on peaceful demonstrations in Egypt, and comes days after the military arrested five Petrojet workers, who had been taking part in a two-week sit-in outside the petroleum ministry protesting the sacking of 1200 workers. It also comes after renewed accusations of police brutaliy, most notably in the case of a bus driver that was allegedly taken to the police station in Ezbekiyya and beaten to death last week after refusing to pay a bribe to a police officer - an event that sparked protests and riots in the area.

On the same day Samir Radwaan, new minister of finance after Youssef Boutrous Ghali (who fled Egypt before Mubaraks ouster and was handed a prison sentence of 30 years in absentia last week on charges of corruption and squandering of public wealth), promised that Egypt won't back away from the "economic reforms" and free-market polices pursued under Mubaraks decades-long rule. (He doesn't seem to understand that in a supposedly democratic Egypt, that should be up to the voters to decide). As elsewhere where the neoliberal doctrine has been applied since the 70's, these "reforms" (mainly privatization of public enterprises and tax-cuts for companies and the rich) resulted in exploding inequality, a rapid decline in the quality of public welfare and increasing poverty. They have proved disastrous for the majority of the population, to the extent that they may be identified as the single most important cause of the revolution.

In what was perhaps an unintended coincidence but still a very clear signal of the inclinations of Egypt's current rulers, a proposed capital gains tax of 10% was reportedly cancelled today, after pressure from investors and the head of the national stock exchange. So today's events can be summed up: at the same time as the government vows to use force against farmers and workers who insists on demanding a fairer share of Egypt's wealth after the revolution, demanding "patience" of poor families who can barely feed their children let alone send them to decent schools, they quickly bow to pressure from the privileged minority who benefited most of Mubarak's corrupt and neglectful rule. Disturbing, but hardly surprising.

1 comment:

  1. i agree with the new law as we know all in Egypt we have many troubles in every field in Egypt if we will keep strikes open for all we will never build the country again & we will never also be able to achieve the demands of the labor
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