BY: Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh*
When Al-Sisi staged his coup against the first democratically elected president in Egypt in 7,000 years, he said his famous line: “Tomorrow, you’ll see Egypt will be on top of the world.” Four years passed and Egypt, which has always been known as “the mother of the world” has been brought down by him, to the lowest ranking countries. Egypt has become the tail of a new country, the UAE. The UAE directs and moves Egypt however it wishes, even controlling its political decisions.
We witnessed how Egypt followed the UAE and Saudi Arabia in their boycott and blockade of Qatar, despite Egypt having no interest in the crisis that broke out between these tribes that took the form of countries. However they are dealing in the manner of tribes and retaliation amongst themselves. They still carry old grudges due to their desire for Qatar’s land and gas.
When the politicians of the world discuss this crisis, they don’t mention or regard Egypt. They consider it a purely Gulf crisis that must be solved within the Gulf internal house. The crisis parties refer to Egypt as one of the governments associated with them, which is degrading and humiliating for a country that is supposed to be a major country. Egypt should be leading the Arab world, as it did in the past. However, the country’s status and role has been dwarfed at the hands of the coup leader, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
This has encouraged the Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal to meet with the Egyptian Minister of Investment Sahar Nasr to propose investment projects in Egypt on his private yacht in Sharm El-Sheikh, dressed in shorts, like the rest of his crew. This scene would not occur in any other country! It is not only offensive to the minister personally, but also to the entire country she is representing.
Saudi Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (centre left) in shorts on his private yacht during a meeting with Egypt’s Minister of Investment Sahar Nasr (right) in August 2017
This incident raises a number of questions, such as why didn’t Prince Al-Waleed meet her in her office? Why did he insist on meeting her on her private yacht and why did he film this meeting and distribute it to numerous press agencies. Why did the minister agree to go to him, rather than have him visit her in her office in her capacity as a minister in the form of an official visit? Would this arrogant billionaire dare to do the same with any other minister in any other country in the world?
All of these questions have just one answer, i.e. Egypt has plunged to its weakest state and is being violated by everyone, and that this rich fool, who has a hidden grudge against Egypt, wants to humiliate the Egyptians with such a meeting and revealed it to everyone. It was this same man who said in the 1990’s, “I will ‘Gulf-ify’ the Egyptian tongue.”
Al-Waleed Bin Talal owns one of the biggest music production and distribution companies, a number of satellite channels, and the Rotana network, which controls the production and distribution of songs. Until today, he is still fighting Egyptian art and keeping Egyptian artists out of the industry.
We don’t know exactly what projects the minister and the prince discussed, especially since she has had a failed experience with him in the past with the Toshka project during Mubarak’s rule. Mubarak had given the prince thousands of acres of land for a very low price in order to cultivate it, but he did nothing with it. Once the January 25th Revolution occurred, the prince was forced, by the revolution’s momentum, to return it to the state.
All the prince and minister revealed was that the projects were worth about $56 million, without mentioning details of what they entailed. Regardless of what these projects are and what they are worth, are they worth Egypt being humiliated by an arrogant fool? However, the Egypt led by Al-Sisi today is not the Egypt we know and carry in our hearts. Al-Sisi’s Egypt begs and looks for handouts.
The most disastrous part of this matter is the fact that we don’t know where the billions of dollars handed over by the Gulf countries that funded the coup since the overthrow of Dr Morsi have gone. Some have estimated the money given to Egypt since the coup at hundreds of billions of dollars, but the Egyptian people have not felt this nor did their economic situation improve. Instead, their conditions have worsened after the government’s subsidy of energy, gas, water and the most basic goods, such as rice, sugar, oil and grains was lifted. Moreover, the Egyptian pound was floated, to follow the instructions of the International Monetary Fund in order to release the second instalment of the loan, there is a deficit in the budget, and a shortage in the foreign currency reserves in the World Bank, leading to a major increase in prices.
All of this has made the burden on the middle class’ shoulders even heavier, and we are now seeing that the Egyptian middle class is deteriorating. We all know that the middle class is the pillar of society in any country and it creates balance, so if this class breaks, so does society. Unfortunately, this is the direction in which Egypt is heading. As for the lower class, they cannot find enough to eat in the dumpsters after the middle class suffered a shortage in food.
This is what Egypt has become under the rule of Al-Sisi, the man who stole the country to implement the projects of others in it. Just yesterday, a state decision was issued granting Dubai’s ports developmental projects in the Suez Canal, since the Zayed family put him in power and he has debts he must repay to them. This is exactly how he repaid Saudi Arabia by giving up the Egyptian islands of Tiran and Sanafir. I believe whatever is hidden in the folds of the deal of the century is even worse!
* Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh is an Egyptian political columnist. She writes for Middle East Monitor. The article was published in MEM on August 10, 2017.