From the edi­tor

Finweek English Edition - - CONTENTS - JANA MARAIS

If a se­cret ref­er­en­dum were to be held in Egypt today, I won­der how many Egyp­tians would still be in favour of oust­ing Pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak, who was forced out of of­fice in 2011, or the coun­try’s first demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent, Mo­hamed Morsi, who was kicked out in 2013?

The Egyp­tians have ar­guably been even bet­ter than us at scor­ing po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic own goals. The im­pact can clearly be seen in its tourism in­dus­try, a key sec­tor of the econ­omy and ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to em­ploy­ment and for­eign ex­change earn­ings, which has taken a sub­stan­tial knock. Monthly vis­i­tor num­bers fell from a high of nearly 1.5m in Oc­to­ber 2010 to 440 000 in De­cem­ber 2015, ac­cord­ing to data from Tradinge­co­nomics.com.

Those visi­tors who weren’t de­terred by the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil of the two rev­o­lu­tions, are cer­tainly think­ing twice af­ter the hi­jack­ing of a plane that was on its way from Alexan­dria to Cairo on 29 March. The hi­jack­ing, which wasn’t ter­ror-re­lated, prob­a­bly wouldn’t have been prob­lem­atic if it wasn’t for the Rus­sian air­line that crashed in Si­nai (most be­lieve a bomb ex­ploded on board) in Oc­to­ber last year, which high­lighted con­cerns over air­port se­cu­rity in Egypt.

In many ways, the Egyp­tians are back where they started with Mubarak. The coun­try is, for all prac­ti­cal pur­poses, once again a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship in deep eco­nomic trou­ble, with jus­ti­fied con­cerns over hu­man rights abuses, lim­its on free­dom of ex­pres­sion and al­le­ga­tions of police and mil­i­tary bru­tal­ity. Con­spir­acy the­o­ries abound, but the re­al­ity is that in­ter­na­tional head­lines about the ac­ci­den­tal killing of eight Mex­i­can tourists in the West­ern Desert in Septem­ber 2015 by Egyp­tian se­cu­rity forces, and the tor­ture and killing of an Ital­ian PhD stu­dent in Cairo in Fe­bru­ary, will do noth­ing to at­tract in­vest­ment and tourists.

Ad­mit­tedly, most of this has very lit­tle to do with us. But it should serve as a re­minder that, while a pres­i­dent can cause sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to an econ­omy, as Mubarak showed so deftly in those months he clung to power in 2011, a pres­i­dent alone can­not sal­vage a coun­try.

Many have called for the oust­ing of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma – which may re­store con­fi­dence in some quar­ters over the short term, much as Morsi’s much-hailed demo­cratic elec­tion did for Egypt in 2012. But with re­gard to the struc­tural eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­forms we need, we’d still be firmly in the start­ing blocks.

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