by David Lev –www.israelnationalnews.com
The “Arab Spring” may yet yield a winter of discontent, says Mohammed el-Baradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and current candidate for the presidency of Egypt.
Speaking Monday, El-Baradei said that the country could go bankrupt by next March, unless something was done to stop the flow of foreign currency out of the country – or to find new sources of “hard” currency.
According to Egyptian treasury figures, foreign currency holdings – crucial for Egypt, which imports much of its food and other basic supplies – stood at around $25 billion at the end of August. With nearly a billion dollars a month going for imports, and debts to foreign creditors that are coming due in the next few months, El-Baradei said that there was a strong possibility of bankruptcy.
“Egypt is still an amateur country when it comes to industry,” ElBaradei told workers at an election rally, “but with the current economic deterioration that resulted from to the lack of security and as we run out of reserves with little foreign investment, the country will go bankrupt in six months.”
Egyptian banks lost much of the country’s foreign currency deposits as a result of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak, as investors unsure of what the revolution would bring sought safer havens for their cash. In addition, the country’s tourism industry, the largest earner of foreign currency, has still not recovered from the loss of tourism during the revolution.
So far, Cairo has been unsuccessful in wooing investors back, although, El-Baradei said, they really ought to give the country another chance, as “Egypt’s potential has no limits in agriculture, tourism, industry and services.”
Although Western media has concentrated on the protests that brought Mubarak down and presents a picture of a more moderate and more free Egypt, the truth is that at least 10,000 civilians are behind bars, due to the implementation of several emergency laws. Among the targets of mass arrests have been bloggers, political activists, and participants in protests against the government, which are becoming more frequent and violent.
The riot last month at the Israeli Embassy in Cairo was actually only one of several mass riots in Cairo that day, with public employees, doctors, transport workers, and teachers conducting angry demonstrations demanding better salaries. Unemployment is higher now than it was under Mubarak, critics of the government say; according to Al-Jazeera. the unemployment rate among young Egyptians is 20%, while the unemployment rate for women with university degrees stands at 55%.