Would the REAL Crisis in the Middle East Please Stand Up?

WASHINGTON — President Obama surprised many recently when he diagnosed the crisis gripping Iraq as partly an economic one, noting that Iraqi Sunnis were “detached from the global economy” and thus frustrated in achieving their aspirations.

While Iraq’s chaos has many sources, the president is nevertheless on to something; and it’s not just Iraqi Sunnis, but the entire Middle East that is detached from the global economy.

The region accounts for just over 4 percent of global imports, less than it did in 1983; Germany alone accounts for 6.4 percent. Its economic stagnation is vividly illustrated by a comparison to Asian economies. According to the World Bank, in 1965, Egypt’s per-capita gross domestic product was $406, while China’s was merely $110.

Today (using constant dollars), Egypt’s G.D.P. has increased four-fold to $1,566, whereas China’s has increased thirty-fold to $3,583. Similarly, Iran and South Korea had roughly the same per-capita G.D.P. in 1965; now South Korea’s is $24,000, whereas Iran’s is only $3,000.

The economies of the Middle East are not only detached from the world’s, but from one another. Most exports in North America, Europe and Asia remain within those regions. Two-thirds of exports to Europe are also from Europe. In the Middle East, only 16 percent of exports to the region as a whole are from other Middle Eastern states.

While Western observers focus on political issues in the Middle East, people in the region are themselves preoccupied with economic matters. According to a recent poll, residents of the Gaza Strip overwhelmingly desire calm with Israel and the chance to seek jobs there. In another poll, Iranians listed “expanding employment opportunities” as their top political priority, far higher than “continuing our nuclear enrichment program.”

But while Gazans hope for an end to their blockade, and Iranians for an end to sanctions, neither step would provide a silver bullet. Economic malaise is endemic to the region, even in places not suffering from blockades or sanctions.

This should concern Western policy makers. The distinction between economic and political problems is false. Like anywhere, economics and politics are inextricably linked. And economic progress is the key to easing the chronic instability that threatens American interests in the region.

Among oil importers, bloated public sectors are at the heart of socioeconomic woes. In places like Egypt, where the public sector employs around 30 percent of workers, post-revolution governments in search of quick economic fixes have further increased the public work force and salaries. Generous government subsidies, particularly on fuel, encourage overconsumption and favor inefficient, energy-intensive industries. Together with the large public-sector wage bills, these subsidies strain government finances, resulting in deficits, which increase the cost of credit.

These policies, together with obstacles to doing business, inhibit the sort of private-sector activity that would boost growth and employment. Across the region, unemployment — especially among youth — is in many cases higher than it was at the outbreak of the Arab uprisings, and economic growth is too slow to reverse the trend.

These problems aren’t limited to the oil importers. The International Monetary Fund has warned that oil exporters’ years of massive surpluses are nearing an end, as a result of heavy spending and growing populations. This makes them increasingly vulnerable to a decrease in oil prices, which looks increasingly likely as new sources come online internationally.

These economic problems can be fixed, however. In contrast to the region’s political dilemmas — which often seem intractable — the West is not only able to help, but regional leaders are open to receiving help. Jordan offers an example: Amid the chaos of the Arab uprisings, Amman quietly implemented tough reforms with the assistance of the United States and the I.M.F.

Oil importers need to replace costly fuel subsidies with targeted assistance to the poor and the creation of social safety nets. They also need to ease their dependency on external aid, reduce corruption, and make regulatory changes to encourage private-sector growth. Exporters need to reduce spending and diversify their economies. And both need to shrink their public sectors and modernize their educational systems.

The United States and its allies should not only provide advice in overcoming these challenges but also incentivize regional governments to take it. That means working with regional allies that are seeking to diversify and modernize their economies, and coordinating economic aid and tying it to progress on reform, including the political steps necessary to make reforms successful.

America should also promote greater economic integration by cooperating with wealthy oil producers to invest in the prosperity of their poorer neighbors, and by offering Middle Eastern states better access to Western markets, especially the European Union.

Exhortations for the United States to “do more” overseas are often criticized as veiled calls for the use of military force. But integrating economic statecraft into diplomacy would help broaden America’s international role beyond the security sphere in a way that promotes long-term peace and stability.

It would be naïve to think that economic growth will solve all of the Middle East’s thorny dilemmas; but it would be equally naïve to believe that they can be solved without it.

Michael Singh is the managing director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former senior director for Middle East Affairs at the United States National Security Council.

Leave a Comment

Filed under PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics

Why Is #Morocco the Outlier in Gallup #Poll?

Why is Morocco the outlier in Gallup’s poll?  Morocco is more confident about its economic future than ANY other MENA neighbor!  Gallup released a poll last week looking at economic confidence across the Middle East and North Africa in 2013 — what we nicknamed the pita-consuming region.  Gallup results showed that MENA respondents showed declining economic confidence in the MENA region with a score of -33 points for 2013.  MENA’s 2012 respondents scored -17 points in its economic confidence, thereby showing a decline of 16 points in Economic Confidence Index in the Middle East.  (Algeria was not included in the sample–probably due to difficulty in gathering data given its government restrictions.)  Lebanon showed the lowest level of economic confidence with a score of -71 points.  In contrast, Morocco showed a score of 20 points.  As all other MENA countries reflected ‘below zero’ economic confidence, Morocco remained steadfast in its economic outlook–for whatever reason.

Only EU Is Less Confident than MENA Region– Minus GCC Countries

After the European Union (-36 points), MENA (-33 points) showed the least amount of economic confidence. Gallup measures economic confidence as the following:

Gallup calculates the Economic Confidence Index by adding the percentage of people rating current economic conditions (["excellent" + "good"] minus “poor”) to the percentage saying the economy is (“getting better” minus “getting worse”), and then dividing that sum by two. The Economic Confidence Index has a maximum value of +100 and a minimum value of -100. Values above zero indicate a more positive than negative view of the economy, values below zero indicate net-negative views, and zero indicates that positive and negative views are equal.

The greatest decline in economic confidence was in Egypt: scoring -70 points in 2013, a 40 point drop from -30 points in 2012.  What explains the declining economic confidence?  Security discomfort?  Uncertainty about subsidy reform?  Declining FDI, which results from disruptive policing efforts?  Some factors affect certain countries more than others.

Economic Confidence Declined Because of Subsidy Reductions?

MENA is too diverse across its set countries to truly feel surprised about any type of general statement of confidence–especially if you argue that a single indicator of confidence cannot represent the non-homogenous MENA region because oil-producing countries skew the results of economic realities.  It’s important to note: Gallup considered the impact of GCC member nation’s realities and did not include them in the economic confidence index for the region.  Both middle-income (Tunisia, Jordan, Lebanon Libya and Egypt) and upper-income countries (Bahrain and Kuwait for example) experience different realities and may point to why they are less confident than last year.  Specifically, middle-income countries, like Tunisia,  have undertaken wide-scale subsidy reductions in contrast to wealthier countries’, which have the luxury of maintaining fuel and bread subsidies without implementing tax regimes.

Tunisia’s planned subsidy reforms and public spending cuts should help reduce the budget deficit by 1.5 billion dinars or $927 million in 2014. Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa

Subsidy culture aside, some feel like certain cultural experiences speak to certain countries and not others.  Or even if you feel that certain countries belong to the region versus others, what does economic confidence really mean if each country is starting off from a richer endowment?  Advanced, industrialized economies, like Israel, are included in the Gallup poll.  But, Israel is the only MENA country that receives economic aid.

True, you could argue that the regional security situation negatively impacted over 6 MENA countries in 2013, which is why economic confidence declined across the board–expect in Morocco.  Syria’s war produced huge spillover effects by producing over 1.5 million refugees for Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq.  But not for Morocco.  Geographically, Morocco is the furthest away from the Syrian conflict (and now the ISIS escalation in Iraq).  So Morocco’s positive economic outlook is not tainted by either the Syrian spillover or the Gaza blockade.

More importantly, if you does want to focus on the overall “declining economic confidence in the Middle East” why the heck is Morocco the outlier in this MENA poll?   Based on PITAPOLICY’s June visit to Morocco, certain positive developments may explain why Moroccans show more economic confidence:

1) Fully operational, newly constructed metro system operating in Rabat.  More mobility, more access to economic outlets.

2) More publicity on King Mohammed IV’s increased support for economic and agricultural assistance to African countries.  Can’t tell you how many times Qayyum turned on Moroccan news to see coverage on Morocco’s Africa’s assistance–counted two stories each night for a week.

3) Optimism that political trajectory of Morocco is more stable than neighboring revolutions in Tunisia, Libya Egypt, and Yemen.

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics

Live-Blogging from DC: To what point does international community accept that there’s a state within a state? #IRAQ – What is Happening?”

August 14th in Washington, DC ~ The New America Foundation asks “Iraq: What Is Happening?” from its office in Washington, DC.  Earlier this week, Iraqi president, Fouad Masum, announced the new Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, who is SUPPOSED to take over from Nouri al-Maliki — Iraq’s Prime Minister since the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. (Since this post, Al-Maliki resigned at 5pm EST.  Al-Abadi now has 26 days to form a government according to the constitution.)

Rightly or wrongly — depending on if one views this as an impeachment or  as a coup that dismisses constitutional processes — Al-Maliki is taking legal action to fight for a third term.  It is no surprise that the UK Foreign Office welcomes Al-Abadi as the new PM — he was educated at Manchester University.

More political drama unfolds since the Obama order airstrikes on August 7th.  Despite the Obama’s administration pledge to keep troops out of combat, the Pentagon confirms US special operations are headed to Mount Sinjar, Iraq.

New America Foundation: Two-and-a-half years after the United States withdrew from Iraq, President Obama has ordered air strikes against Sunni militants in the country without giving any sort of timetable on how long the United States will remain involved.  The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have taken over major cities in the north, Iraqi army officers have abandoned their posts, and people are fleeing the region by the hundreds of thousands. ISIS has also taken over at least four small oil fields and Mosul Dam, the largest dam in the country, which has the capacity to flood cities and farms downstream.  Iraqi Kurds have also taken over parts of the north, fighting back ISIS militants.  Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki clashed with Iraq’s president on Monday after he asked a veteran Shiite politician, Haider al-Abadi, to form a new government on Monday, setting the stage for a political showdown.As the humanitarian crisis worsens and the level of U.S. involvement deepens, we will explore some key questions: What is the trajectory of ISIS? Will Maliki try to stage a coup? What does this mean for a country with some of the largest oil reserves in the world? Is President Obama is doing the right thing? And what is the fate of Kurdistan?

Participants

We will be live-blogging the conversation, which includes comments from the following participants:

Col. Derek Harvey (Ret.): Professor, University of South Florida Former Senior Analyst for Iraq for General David H. Petraeus Denise Natali: Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Strategic Studies, National Defense University, Author, The Kurdish Quasi-State: Development and Dependency in Post-Gulf War Iraq

Steve Levine: Future Tense Fellow, New America Foundation; Author, The Oil and the Glory, The Pursuit of Empire and Fortune on the Caspian Sea

Moderator: Douglas A. OllivantASU Future of War Senior Fellow, International Security Program, New America Foundation Former NSC Director for Iraq

 

The Moderator, Olivant,  opens with a Sad Joke about Iraq –like Russia–producing more history than GDP.  He emphasizes war between moderates and ‘Jihadists’ prefers emphasizing “Sunni Jihadist” and the sectarian, regional conflict.

Harvey:

  • ISIS is not a terrorist organization, but a terrorist army b/c strong social media and strongholds great strategic military planners

Military Organization

  • ISIS made up of former Mukhabarat and Iraqi army officers
  • Strengths: good leadership and organization
  • Arm and ally w/Peshmurga: training and reforming the Iraqi Forces, augementation of intelligence need combined joint task force

(Although there’s a “democritzation of violence” we disagree w/the construct – democratization of violence

Natali:

  • Kurdish region media coverage hyperfocuse on arming Kurds
  • Pushing back on ISIS in Sinjar area, but Pehsmarge having difficulty in east area where no airtstrikes occurred
  • Concerned about the politicization of aid: why just looking at safeguarding the Yazidis?
  • “We were too busy predicting breakup of Iraq. myth that peshmurga were capable of defending region” Look at Baghdad, PKK, and Iran
  • Iraqi govt was the one providing airport, arming Kurds is undermining terrirotial integrity of Iraq… but done w/approval of Iraqi govt

Economic Side:

  • Operations are suspended in Kurdish region: almost every intl oil company has evacuated, but service companies no longer there
  • Building construction are at standstill; commercial flights are not running unless to Istanbul or Jordan
  • 25% occupancy of hotels

Levin

  • 200K bpd produced, only 120 bpd exported
  • Not focused on “do Kurds get independence?” or discourage Kurds from selling oil
  • ISIS understands centrality of resources: captured in Syria and Iraq, producing by using crews on ground earning $1M a day
  • Reuters reported similar thing of ISIS asserting economic control of wheat.

Here’s the jist of what Levin is saying regarding wheat, which we already noted as 5 provinces in Iraq represent 40% of Iraq’s supply.  ISIS tactics and strategy is reminiscent of when the Taliban captured the heroin trade in Afghanistan.  Given that ISIS operates like a state trying to control resources (oil, wheat, and now water) we see that this is no longer a terrorism issue, but an Iraqi soveriegnty issue.   As Levin pointed out, and we agreed, ISIS is working on control of water and dams.

 

  • Iraq projected ambition 12M bpd now downgraded projection to 5M bpd
  • Now 80% of expats have flown out of Erbil, oil companies aren’t there anymore – their share prices: lost 25% of value, but resurged?
  • Kirkuk key area: Exxon tried to drill, but even if you do drill, it is percieved that ISIS can threaten oil fields or transportation b/c needs to get it to Turkey

Olivant on Baghdad Politics:

  • We have a new nominee for PM, same from same party as Al Maliki (Al Dawah Party not Sadrists) but has a Phd in engineering — a technocrat w/o political study….(hmmm…we said that last week)
  • Kurds are in areas where violence will exist for some time in addition to corruption and ghost soldiers — requires reassesment of US forces in region as assessing Peshmurga and Iraqi forces
  • Kurds have lost their brand b/c they used to be in the safe part of Iraq
  • selling weapons directly to Kurds “above board” are against U.S. law b/c must deal with the state
  • Insurance rates for oil companies operating in Erbil are going to skyrocket

Natali

far left (doug?): challenges the “lost their brand” comment
not a matter of law, but matter of policy

Policy suggestions:

1) Reynolds: Frame correctly and understand threat frame correctly by specifying who the threat is– This is not a terrorism issue.(PITAPOLICY NOTE: But didn’t we already do that by identifying ISIS and their origins??? It makes sense to go after sanctuary areas in Syria, but then it revisits what Olivant warned the US not to do: deal with Syria.  Tactical measures aren’t enough. )

2) Do not reinforce ethnic/sectarian divisions existing now, which the US has done w/aid operation last week
Not in the Kurds interest to give into Barzani’s interest

3) Natali: Be careful not to create a political cushion that doesn’t get Iraqis to stand with their decisions
praises Kirkuk Governor Najmuddin Kareem for not getting sucked into the accusation that Kirkuk getting ‘Arabized’ // now similar accusation with “Kurdization” of territories
have a referendum in any territory is a wise idea

 

Questions:
Why can’t the Arabs should take care of this ISIS crisis?

- Well, unwise to put in a GCC force given the opportunity for sectarian opportunists

Olivant: Assad is now secondary or tertiary priority b/c it’s too complex for near term solution

 Why didn’t we do more? former employee of firm that entered Iraq right after Saddam ouster:directed to Colonel Reynolds

(ummm… b/c ISIS/ISIL didn’t exist when US withdrew from Iraq)
Levine:  If we did airstrikes 10 weeks ago, wouldn’t have had Yazidi sitution, but was held hostage to a domestic situation in Iraq and not enough intelligence for precise targets

Natali

  • Not enough local buy-in within Iraq. Note the Mosul coup: Barzani said “We won’t fight ISIS!” b/c risk of attacking Sunni Arabs civilians

 

Reynolds

  • Downside of recognizing an Islamic State: create a cascade of sectarian warfare that will create a 30 year war from Mediterranean to Asia
  • ISIS has military, ideological, political and financial bureaus that know how to recruit technicians and how to invest.

 

Olivant

  • Administration should get an ‘A’ for crisis management
  • US needs to identify which groups deals may be cut with… (PITAPOLICY NOTE: and hope/pray that ISIS doesn’t capture and torture special forces guys and put it in Youtube)
  • Maybe necessary to have an interim state to hold Iraq together: imagine an Obama and Karl Rove leading US jointly where one department led by Republicans and another led by Democrats: klunky, but unity may trump efficiency

Reynolds

  • Only 5% of revenue stream to support ISIS coming from Gulf

(PITAPOLICY NOTE: GCC states got slapped in the face b/c ISIS predecessors were no longer “good guys gone bad” after they left Syria for Iraq)

Leave a Comment

Filed under Interests, Politics

We Didn’t Have the Support That We Expected From the West #Tunisie

“I’ll be frank: we didn’t have the support that we expected from the West.”- Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki
Tunisia feels as if it is going at it alone.  “Help us, and we will help you,” stated Tunisian President, Moncef Marzouki at the Atlantic Council on August 5th in Washington, DC.  He listed Tunisia’s achievements: 1) passing a consensus based constitution; 2) preserving freedom of press by not shutting down any television station; and 3) setting a date for parliamentary and presidential elections this Fall.   This was his response after he stated that Tunisia did not have the support that Tunisians expected from the West.
Marzouki is unsure why Tunisia was not receiving support, but speculates that it may be because of its previous Islamist party in power.   Nonetheless Tunisia moved forward despite its increasing inflation rate (6% in 2013 and 5.6% in 2012) and modest 3.0% growth, according to the Institute of International Finance.

Before Marzouki became president, he was exiled from Tunisia for ten years during the Ben Ali regime for his human rights activism in Tunisia.  In welcoming President Marzouki, Atlantic Council President, Fred Kemp quotes Sikor Skiradek who told him: will play role played in bringing down communism.  (Note the subtext of a security threat perceived by the Americans in Tunisia’s context by mentioning communisim.)  Marzouki has not decided if he will run for president in the November 2014 elections.  He will announce at the end of September.

“We need to have an inclusive government. People must listen to each other…Arab societies are not homogenous and need to be inclusive otherwise it will lead to more divisions and chaos.” ~President Moncef Marzouki
Although Tunisia’s Jasmine revolution stemmed from concern with socio-economic injustice, the revolution has boomeranged back towards discontent. “We expected that the revolution would be a solution to the [economic] problem but now it is the cause,” admitted Marzouki.  At the same time, he said that Tunisians may have been naive regarding its internal security threat posed by extremist groups.  In 2013, extremist groups assassinated two political figures.

That being said, the Tunisian president defined two problems for Tunisians.

  • Problem #1 is a social problem: corruption.
  • Problem #2:  unemployment.
  • Problem #3 (Unsaid): Border security
Corruption has grown more and more because of Tunisia’s transition period; the state is always weak during transition.  He explained how keeping the judiciary branch’s 200 judges independent is a key factor in stemming corruption.
At the same time,  it is difficult to bring democracy to Tunisia without steady employment options.  He worries that some people are regretting the revolution because they are getting poorer and poorer while remembering some sort of stability from the authoritarian days.
Unfortunately, no one amongst the audience commented on the various ways of jumpstarting employment.  Rather, the focus remained on security.  (Security ranked as Problem number three on Tunisia’s list in contrast to Problem number one on the American list.)  Perhaps it was the best strategic opportunity for Tunisia’s president to present his ask on security–which he did very specifically: 12 Blackhawk helicopters, night vision goggles, communications devices, and security trainings.
According to Marzouki, the army is not as well equipped as the police forces–which may make sense since they are treated as one security entity–the result of a police state that is common in the Arab world.
Corruption seemed to be the fetishized question among audience members from the U.S. military and American based NGOs–as if they memorized 2011 State Department Talking Points memo on Tunisia.  Furthermore, Tunisia’s corruption problem is underpinned by people not paying taxes.  Marzouki says that collecting tax revenue remains a critical issue, but without the number of delinquent taxpayers, there’s no way of determining the magnitude of the problem compared to the percent that remains uncollected from businesses.

Image preview

Foreign Direct Investment Priority

Tunisia’s priority is to attract investors, says Marzouki, who wants international support & asks for patience by the International Monetary Fund.  “We need to explain to the IMF that we are a fragile country,” says Marzouki.  According to Marzouki, foreign investors express concern, “let’s wait”, due to the security situation.  But the investment climate worsens as poverty and unemployment increase.
Kemp asked if a loan guarantee program was under Tunisia’s consideration.  Which sectors would loan guarantees work best for ? Loans accrue “interest” based on .  Although President Marzouki didn’t elaborate on the how, where, what and when of implementing loan guarantees, he did focus on foreign direct investment, “We’re not just solving the political crisis–but rewriting investment code & paving way for investors to come in.”
Libya is not only important for security, but for Tunisia’s .  There are about 2 million Libyans in Tunisia.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics

Smart Cities in North Africa #ISSC2014

Are smart cities the next phase of urban development, and thereby, the collective hopes for improving living standards across the pita-consuming region?  On June 9th and 10th, PITAPOLICY attended the first annual summit on smart cities review of North Africa, or the Maghreb region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya…with some mention of Egypt).  Below is our overview from the presentations…

Walking past the Check-in counter in Casablanca’s Mohamed V International Airport, a digital sign claims X amount of solar energy used and X amount of energy savings occurred in powering a transit hub with the use of polycrystalline panel technology.  As a tourist, this may come as a pleasant surprise if she has not yet had the opportunity to see other improvements, like Rabat’s tram system.  As a citizen, this may be inspiring as the term “smart city” hints at better infrastructure and technology use.  However, what qualifies a city as a “smart city” is more often a topic for discussion only among Maghreb countries and not implementation.  Infrastructural developments like this–as well as challenges with water access and traffic jams–prompted the 1st annual International Summit on Smart Cities in North Africa (#ISSC2014) at Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. [Click here to continue.]

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics)

Economic, Social, and Human Costs of Gaza Strikes

Dear Pita-consumers:

For the last two weeks, we know that you have been diligently following the Gaza Crisis–which seems to re-ignite every two year with a confluence of triggers–accelerated into a series of surgical strikes resulting in 77 percent “unintentional” targeting of civilian death, according to a UN report.  Note that these surgical strikes are justified by military strategists for its “precision”.   As a result, there are economic, social, and human costs associated with the Gaza strikes, and now ground invasion by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which started Thursday, July 17th.  But you don’t have to take our word for it; below include assessments by others who have clearly stated all this before we blogged about it.  Omar Baddar writes for Salon on the human costs that continue to grow with disproportionate use of violence by state military campaigns.

Economic Costs

Source: Deutsche-Welle, Germany

 

The conflict has so far cost Israel’s defense budget more than a billion shekels, some 200 million euros. Eitan Avriel of the business magazine “The Marker” suspects that the army will reclaim this money from the government.

There is also the additional expenditure on emergency programs in support of people living in the southern parts of the country. For instance, parents receive compensation for the loss of earnings resulting from their staying at home to care for minor children, as almost all summer camps in areas located in the vicinity of the Gaza strip have remained closed due to rocket attacks.

With just 15 seconds of warning time before a rocket strikes, it would be almost impossible to bring large groups of children into safety in time.

Less consumption, less tourism

“The government has already allocated 400 million shekels to support the communities living along the border with the Gaza Strip,” says Eitan. However, the greatest loss is the decline in the gross national product, he stressed, pointing out that consumption has virtually halved.

Carmel Markt in Tel Aviv - Carmel Markt in Tel Aviv,Marktstrasse, Foto: Robert B. Fishman, ecomedia, 19.2.2014 Eitan says consumption dropped by a third in Tel Aviv region

In the nation’s south, it completely collapsed, Eitan noted. “While in Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot sales have fallen by 60 to 70 percent, the area around Tel Aviv saw consumption drop by a third. At the same time, public transport has seen a loss of 20 percent,” said the journalist on Israeli television.

The tourism industry was particularly badly hit, says Yossi Fatael of the country’s tour operators association. Around 40 percent of the sector’s revenue is generated in the summer season.

“But we are incurring huge losses as new tourist bookings have totally stopped and there have been many cancellations,” he explained. That’s why we have approached the government and requested it to provide assistance to the industry, said Fatael.

Curtailing consumer protection

Employees who are not currently working should not be dismissed from their jobs, but rather undergo training and other skills development programs. But in order to implement such programs, employers are looking for government support.

Yossi Fatael argues that easing of consumer protection laws would also help. “For instance, a new law stipulates that we pay compensation in case of flight delays or cancellations,” says Fatael, demanding a suspension of the law.

The tourism industry also calls on the government to provide an alternative airport as the international Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv has become a target for Hamas and came under its rocket attacks. In case of such attacks, flights are diverted to either Jordan or Cyprus, said Fatael, demanding that the government should instead divert them to the rarely used Uvda airport in the Negev, 60 km north of Eilat. [Click Deutsche-Welle, Germany to continue.]

Social & Political Costs

The social and political costs associated with the crisis ultimately go back to credibility: how much political capital are attacking forces spending in the name of military force?  Watch this to see how media coverage represents how a country puts its credibility on the line.  Video link if not working below, forward to Minute 5…
<div style=”background-color:#000000;width:520px;”><div style=”padding:4px;”><iframe src=”http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:arc:video:thedailyshow.com:dfe38ee1-09ff-4f6c-86da-f490f0fd2f88″ width=”512″ height=”288″ frameborder=”0″></iframe><p style=”text-align:left;background-color:#FFFFFF;padding:4px;margin-top:4px;margin-bottom:0px;font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:12px;”><b><a href=”http://thedailyshow.cc.com/”>The Daily Show</a></b><br />Get More: <a href=”http://thedailyshow.cc.com/full-episodes/”>Daily Show Full Episodes</a>,<a href=”http://www.comedycentral.com/indecision”>Indecision Political Humor</a>,<a href=”http://www.facebook.com/thedailyshow”>The Daily Show on Facebook</a></p></div></div>

Human Cost Outlined by PITAPAL, Omar Baddar

The civilian death toll in Gaza is immoral and unacceptable — and it’s time to talk honestly about all of it.

How commonly is the alleged moral superiority of the Israeli military invoked? So commonly that if you type “the most moral army in the world” into Google, you’ll immediately get a bunch of articles discussing the Israeli “Defense” Forces. Just last week, Slate’s William Saletan argued that while Hamas fires rockets at civilians, Israel takes “pains” in its “exemplary” efforts to avoid harming Palestinian civilians. The New York Times’ Steven Erlanger didn’t “argue” that Israel takes major precautions to avoid harming civilians, he seemed to be taking it as a given when he wrote Gazans were anxious about airstrikes “no matter how carefully Israel tries to target them.”

Despite the fact that the Palestinians are an occupied, besieged and oppressed population that lacks the capability to defend itself against systemic and daily Israeli violence, Hamas’s insistence that Israeli civilians are legitimate targets is morally indefensible, and should be condemned by all people of conscience. But according to what evidence is Israel’s conduct better? And how can it possibly be better when Israel has advanced surveillance capability and laser-guided weaponry, but has still managed to kill more than 150 Palestinian civilians (including 40+ children) in Gaza, compared to just one Israeli death in this latest round of violence? Instead of taking Israel at its word, let’s look at the take of credible observers. [Click here to continue.]

Leave a Comment

Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics

U.S. Announces New Sanctions Against Firms in UAE & Lebanon

Despite UAE’s great news: Dubai airport has ranked higher than Heathrow International for more air traffic, neighboring emirate of Sharjah has drawn the negative attention for supplying the Syrian regime with petroleum products.  On July 9th, Wednesday, the U.S. Treasury added Pangates to the U.S. sanctions list for supplying specialty petroleum products to the Syrian government and blacklisted two additional Syrian companies, Expert Partners and Megatrade, according to Reuters.  Both Syrian companies aided the regime in acquiring ballistic missiles used against its own people.  

The Syrian government’s continued violence against its own people is abhorrent,” -Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David Cohen.

The U.S. has long been a fan of using sanctions as a tool in the MENA region in conjunction with other tools, to stem terrorist  or perceived conflict activities.  Iran is a case in point regarding its nuclear program.  At the same time, the U.S. has been noted to also arm countries’ regimes that have also been sanctioned, like Iran, during the Iran-Contra Affair during the 1980s.

At the outbreak of Syria’s revolution turned crisis in 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department added Syrian dictator, Bashar al Assad, and his top 15 associates, to the list of sanctioned persons and entities.

The sanctions tool is most certainly a favorite tool.  Last week on July 10th, the U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions against Kamel and Issam Mohamad Amhaz, who run the Stars Group Holidng company in Beirut, Lebanon for ties to Hezbollah.  The full press release is posted below for more details.  Stars Group is reported to have subsidiaries in the United Arab Emirates and China.

Dubai’s Airport Ready to Take on Busiest Airport Hub Title

As Dubai airport’s importance increases due to its increased business traffic to parts of the MENA region, that’s where the good news in MENA ends for now.

Egypt’s Debt Crisis… Continues.

The Elbawaba news site reported that Egypt’s financial reserves dropped drastically due to Gulf Cooperation Council countries’ (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the UAE) decision to suspend aid in the amount of 12 billion dollars–with estimates as high as 20 billion dollars since Mohamed Morsi’s ousters in June, 2013.

Egypt’s net international foreign reserves fell by $600m, recording $16.68bn at the end of June, down from $17.28m in May, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) announced on Monday.

Foreign reserves are now the lowest since the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, when they saw a jump following a total Gulf aid package of $12bn, in the form of cash grants, deposits and petroleum products.

Low financial reserves partially explain why the Sisi government enacted subsidy reform on petroleum products assistance to Egyptians. In Sisi’s speech last week, he called upon Egyptians to swallow the “bitter pill” of cut fuel subsidies while calling upon the wealthiest segment to donate to Egypt’s development.  Although the first part of his call to the Egyptians will become a reality, the second part will not.

 

Treasury Sanctions Procurement Agents Of Hizballah Front Company Based In Lebanon With Subsidiaries In The UAE And China

7/10/2014

Action Targets Company’s Owners and Several Managers Responsible for Supporting Hizballah’s Global Procurement Operations

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury targeted a key Hizballah procurement network today by designating brothers Kamel and Issam Mohamad Amhaz, their consumer electronics business Stars Group Holding based in Beirut, Lebanon, its subsidiaries, and certain managers and individuals who support their illicit activities.  Today’s actions were taken pursuant to E.O. 13224, which targets terrorists and those providing support to terrorists, or acts of terrorism.  As a result of today’s action, all assets of those designated today that are based in the United States or in control by U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.  Today’s action highlights Hizballah’s continued reliance on companies for material support, including the procurement of material used to enhance the group’s military capabilities.

 

Hizballah has used the Stars Group Holding network to covertly purchase sophisticated electronics and other technology from suppliers across the world.  Items obtained by Hizballah using the Stars Group Holding network have directly supported the group’s military capabilities, including the development of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which have been used most recently to support Hizballah’s military activities in Syria and to conduct surveillance operations in Israel.

 

“With disturbing reach far beyond Lebanon, Hizballah’s extensive procurement networks exploit the international financial system to enhance its military capabilities in Syria and its terrorist activities worldwide,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence David S. Cohen.  “This global terrorist activity and expanding criminal network belie Hizballah’s claimed purpose as a national liberation movement.  It is critical that countries throughout the world work together to combat this dangerous organization and sever it from sources of revenue and support.”

 

Beirut-based Stars Group Holding is owned and managed by President and Chief Executive Officer Kamel Mohamad Amhaz and company Chairman Issam Mohamad Amhaz.  In addition to the company’s Lebanon-based businesses, Treasury-designated Stars Group Holding maintains subsidiaries in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Unique Stars Mobile Phones LLC, and Guangzhou, China, Stars International Ltd.  Today’s action also targets Ayman Ibrahim, who serves as the General Manager of Unique Stars Mobile Phones LLC, and Ali Zeaiter who is the General Manager of Stars International Ltd.

 

Over the past three years, Stars Group Holding, Kamel Mohamad Amhaz, Issam Mohamad Amhaz, Ayman Ibrahim, and Ali Zeaiter have used these China- and UAE-based subsidiaries to acquire a range of engines, communications, electronics, and navigation equipment from companies in the United States, Asia, Canada, and Europe for Hizballah’s use in UAVs and for other projects.  These individuals and entities have relied on false end-user certificates, mislabeled air waybills, and other fraudulent methods to avoid export restrictions and otherwise conceal Hizballah as the ultimate end-user or beneficiary of these goods.

 

In addition to the Stars Group Holding owners, managers, and companies described above, Treasury is also designating Hanna Elias Khalifeh, a Hizballah member and Lebanese businessman who has worked directly with Stars Group Holding network managers to facilitate these procurement activities on behalf of Hizballah.

 

The following Beirut-based subsidiaries of Stars Group Holding were also designated by Treasury today:  Stars Communications Ltd., Teleserve Plus Sal, Stars Communications Offshore Sal, and Fastlink SARL.

 

 

Identifying Information

Individual 1:               KAMEL MOHAMAD AMHAZ

AKA:                          Kamel Mohamed Amhaz  

AKA:                          Kamel Amhaz

AKA:                          Kamel Al-Amhaz

AKA:                          Kamil Amhaz

DOB:                          04 August 1973

Nationality:                 Lebanon

Passport:                      RL2244333, Lebanon

ID No:                         61 Niha El-Mehfara

Address 1:                   5th Floor, Ghadir Building, Kods Street, Haret Hreik (Baabda), Lebanon

Address 2:                   Ghadir, 5th Floor, Safarat, Bir Hassan, Jenah, Lebanon

Address 3:                   Ghadir, 5th Floor, Embassies Street, Bir Hasan, Lebanon

Address 4:                   Dallas Center, Saida Old Street, Chiah, Baabda, Lebanon

Occupation:                 President & Chief Executive Officer, Stars Group Holding

 

Individual 2:               ISSAM MOHAMAD AMHAZ

 

AKA:                          Issam Mohamed Amhaz

AKA:                          ‘Isam Amhaz

DOB:                          04 March 1967

POB:                           Baalbek, Lebanon

Nationality:                 Lebanon

Passport:                      RL0000199, Lebanon

ID No:                        61 Nabha

Address 1:                   Ghadir, 5th Floor, Safarat, Bir Hassan, Jenah, Lebanon

Address 2:                   Issam Mohamad Amhaz Property, Ambassades (Safarate), Bir Hassan Area, Ghobeiri (Baabda), Lebanon

Occupation:                 Chairman, Stars Group Holding

Occupation:                 General Manager, Teleserve Plus Sal

 

 

Individual 3:               AYMAN IBRAHIM

AKA:                          Ayman Ahmad Ibrahim

DOB:                          01 April 1979

POB:                           ‘Adlun, Lebanon

Occupation:                 General Manager, Unique Stars Mobile Phones LLC

 

 

Individual 4:               ALI ZEAITER

AKA:                          Ali Zoeiter

AKA:                          ‘Ali Zu’aytar

AKA:                          Ali Husayn Zu’aytir

DOB:                          24 February 1977

Nationality:                 Lebanon

Passport 1:                   RL1924321, Lebanon

Passport 2:                   RL0877465, Lebanon

Address 1:                   No. 351 Tianhe Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou, China

Address 2:                   Room 2203A, Grand Tower, No. 228 Tianhe Road, Tianhe District, Guangzhou, China

Address 3:                   Room 2203A, Guangcheng Building, No. 228 Tianhe Road, Guangzhou,   China

Address 4:                   204 No. 253 Tianhebei Road, Guangzhou, China

Occupation:                 General Manager, Stars International Ltd.

 

Individual 5:               HANNA ELIAS KHALIFEH

AKA:                          Hanna Khalifah

AKA:                          Hanna Khalife

DOB:                          09 July 1955

Nationality:                 Lebanon

Passport:                      RL2033216, Lebanon

Address 1:                   Midan Street, Mazraat Yachouh, Metn, Lebanon

Address 2:                   Asaad Karam Building, Midan Street, Mazraat Yachouh, Lebanon

 

Parent Company:      STARS GROUP HOLDING 

AKA:                          Stars Group Sal (Holding)

AKA:                          Stars Group Holding SAL

Registration/File

Number:                      1901453, Beirut, Lebanon

Registered Office:      Property Number 5208/62, Issam Mohamed Amha, 6th Floor, Dallas Center, Old Saida Road, C, Lebanon

Chamber of

Commerce Number:    317211

Mailing Address:        Postal Box 13-5483, Lebanon

Address 1:                   Bdeir Building, Snoubra Street, Bir El-Abed Area,  Haret Hreik, Baabda, Lebanon

Address 2:                   Bir El Abed, Hadi Nasrallah Highway, Middle East & Africa Bank Building, First Floor, Beirut, Lebanon

Address 3:                   Old Saida Road, Dallas Center, 6th Floor, Beirut, Lebanon

Webpage URL:           www.starscom.net

 

Subsidiary 1:              UNIQUE STARS MOBILE PHONES LLC 

AKA:                          Unique Stars LLC

Registration/

File Number:               591610, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Chamber of

Commerce Number:    116340

Registered Office:      Postal Box 98498, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Mailing Address:        Postal Box 98498, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Location 1:                  Al Maktoum Road, Deira, Al Kabira Building, First Floor, Office #103, PO Box 98498, Dubai, UAE

Location 2:                  Office 103, 1st Floor, Sheikh Rashed Building, Al Maktoum Road, Deira, DXB Municipality, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Location 3:                  Gargash Center, Nasser Square, Shop No. 41, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Subsidiary 2:              STARS INTERNATIONAL LTD 

AKA:                          Stars International Co. Ltd

Location 1:                  Room 2203A, Grand Tower, No. 228 TianHe Road, TianHe District, Guangzhou P.R., China

Location 2:                  F-18, Dubai Airport Free Zone, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 

Subsidiary 3:              STARS COMMUNICATIONS LTD 

AKA:                          Stars Communications Ltd Sarl

AKA:                          Stars Communications LLC

AKA:                          Stars Communications

Registration Number:  2001929, Baabda

Location 1:                  Hadi Nasrallah Av, MEAB Building, 1st Floor, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 2:                  Bir el Abed, Snoubra Street, Haret Hreyk, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 3:                  Tayyouneh, Haret Hreyk, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 4:                  Port, Nahr, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 5:                  Ras El Ain, Baalbeck, Lebanon

Location 6:                  Hadeth, Lebanon

Location 7:                  Nabatiyeh, Lebanon

Location 8:                  Old Saida Road, Beirut Mall, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 9:                  Duty-Free Airport, Rafik Hariri International Airport, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 10:                Sharl Helo Street, Beirut Seaport, Lebanon

Location 11:                Kamil Shamoun Street, Dekwaneh, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 12:                Hermel, Lebanon

 

Subsidiary 4:              TELESERVE PLUS SAL 

AKA:                          Teleserveplus

Registration/

File Number:               2004609, Baabda, Lebanon

Registered Office:      4th Floor, Dalas Center, Old Saida Road, Chiyah (Baabda), Lebanon

Mailing Address:        Postal Box 13-5483, Lebanon

Address 1:                   6th Floor, Dallas Center, Old Saida Avenue,  Beirut, Lebanon

Address 2:                   6th Floor, Dallas Center, Old Saida Road, Chiyah, Baabda, Lebanon

Webpage:                    www.teleserveplus.com

 

Subsidiary 5:              STARS COMMUNICATIONS OFFSHORE SAL 

AKA:                          Stars Communications Offshore

AKA:                          Stars Communication Sal Off-Shore

AKA:                          Stars Offshore

Registration Number:  1801374, Baabda

Location 1:                  Hojeij Building, 2nd Floor, Zaghloul Street, Haret Hreik, Baabda, Lebanon

Location 2:                  Bdeir Building, Ground Floor, Snoubra Street, Ghobeiry, Baabda, Lebanon

Location 3:                  Hadi Nasrallah Av, MEAB Building, 1st Floor, Beirut, Lebanon

 

Subsidiary 6             FASTLINK SARL

AKA:                          Fast Link SAL

Location 1:                  Hadi Nasrallah Av, MEAB Building, 1st Floor, Beirut, Lebanon

Location 2:                  Cendrella Street, Dalas Center, Chyah, Baabda, Lebanon

Location 3:                  Dallas, 6th Floor, Saida Old Road, Chiyah, Beirut, Lebanon

 

 

 

##

Leave a Comment

Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics, Technology

Who’s Been Giving in Ramadan: #Algeria #Saudi

Islam SlimaniPhoto: Diehard Sport   Source: http://www.diehardsport.com/2014/07/02/algeria-striker-announces-team-will-donate-world-cup-prize-money/

On July 1st, the United Nations applauded Saudi Arabia for committing to donate $500 million dollars in humanitarian aid to Iraq, which is dealing with the rise of mercenary moves by the Islamic State of Iraq & Syria (aka ISIS, or ISIL when referring to Levant area).  It is the month of Ramadan, where charitable giving and Zakat (Islamic practice of allocating 2.5 percent of yearly income to charity) are on the rise anyways.  But Saudi Arabia isn’t the only country to make the news for donations.

Algeria World Cup Team: Non-state Charity Makes Powerful Statement

In a surprising twist of the World Cup, Algeria’s national team striker, Islam Slimani, said that the team will donate their World Cup prize money –about $9 million– to the people in Gaza because “they need it more than us.” Non-state actor charity makes a powerful statement.

On June 30th, Algeria faced-off with Germany in the final 16, but lost in overtime.  Symbolically, in the ultimate game theory scenario, the Algeria vs. Germany game earned the nickname “Revenge” because of the infamous 1982 World Cup playoffs where West Germany colluded with Austria to orchestrate a marginal victory by the Germans (avoid a tie) in order to eliminate Algeria from advancing to the next round.  We have all seen the New York Times coverage of the infamous match, so here’s an Arab media reporting of the story by Lebanon’s The Daily Star.

 Although Slimani will rejoin the team Sporting Lisbon, most of his other teammates will be making a relatively bigger financial sacrifice by committing their World Cup prize money. 

This is important to note given the widely publicized praise for Saudi’s donation to its neighboring country–which may be viewed more as benefiting Saudi’s national security interest. Currently, Saudi Arabia has tense relations with Iraq.  Due to the border security concerns with ISIS, Saudi Arabia has already posted 30,000 of its troops along the shared border, according to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television.

Here is a quick snippet of Ramadan giving by pita-consuming countries as of July 3rd.  (For more comprehensive data, contact qayyum at pitapolicyconsulting dot com.)

  1. UAE: UAE Water Aid Campaign – 76.450 Dirhams
  2. Kuwait: Kuwait Red Crescent Launches 30 Day Meal Program in Beirut for Syrian Refugees
  3. Turkey:  150,000 Meningitis vaccines to Pakistan ($6.6 million)  & IHH Ramadan Campaign for 91 countries
  4. Qatar: Reach Out to Asia, Qatar Charity, and Qatar Red Crescent Charities Pledge $6.87 million

Food Stuff Prices Increase in Ramadan

Source:  Today’s Zaman, Turkey

“Some food companies have resorted to opportunism in the past in Turkey, trying to cash in on increased demand by either setting relatively higher prices or selling expired products, among other things. Ahead of this year’s Ramadan, beginning on June 28, fears concerning possible price gouging is pushing the government to increase monitoring of markets and dealers. Consumer unions, meanwhile, are issuing warnings that people be wary of opportunism by some dealers.

Food prices experience artificial increases due to price speculation a few weeks before the holy month of Ramadan every year, Mustafa Karlı, chairman of the İstanbul Food Wholesalers Association (İGTOD), said on June 17, warning consumers not to be deceived by these high prices.”

Source: Zawya

“Ramadan is here and prices of foodstuff have gone up, albeit erratically. Many customers have noticed that drinks popular in Ramadan are dearer compared to the beginning of the holy month. Others have also complained of an increase in the prices of fruits and vegetables. This may be true in some places while it’s not the case at others.

For instance, prices of vegetables at Khaldiya Co-op have not changed for the past two months, according to the research by Kuwait Times. The same applies for beef and chicken, whose prices have remained the same since May. But a worker at this supermarket admitted that the price of some drinks have increased, while those of sweets haven’t.

Fathi from Ahmadi Co-op noted that the prices at their supermarket haven’t increased during Ramadan. “We have special offers on selected items and for shareholders only. For instance, they can buy a pack of Tang for the cheap price of KD 1.890, and any additional piece will cost the regular price of KD 3.500. They can also buy a bottle of Vimto for 295 fils instead of 720 fils, and so on. So some people may think prices have increased, but it’s not true,” he told Kuwait Times.”

1 Comment

Filed under Analysis, Interests, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics)

We had to catch Gigi Ibrahim and Syrian election coverage on The Daily Show b/c El Barnamej canceled.

“Could you imagine a country that would strip civil rights under the guise of fighting terrorism… we are not so different, you and I.” ~Jon Stewart as he interviews Egyptian activist, Gigi Ibrahim on the “common ground” shared by US and Egypt.

American satirist, Jon Stewart, alluded to the common ground that the U.S. and Egypt may share: suspending civil liberties to better protect national security interests–the “Greater Good”.  (Pitaconsumers: try not to chuckle, then cringe, at the use of “greater good”.)  Satire fans may recall from the film “Hot Fuzz”, which satirizes society’s attempt to destroy the individual for his or her ultimate welfare.  On this note, weapons support to the Egyptian government continues for combating terrorism–despite the US freeze on Egypt, reports Middle East Eye.

Syria Votes in Blood

Fortunately (and unfortunately) The Daily Show covered Syria’s sham elections and Egypt’s 41,000 political prisoners as best as any satirical news can do–arguably even better than any “real” Syrian or Egyptian news program… Does Syrian news reporting explain why Syrian voters must mark their ballots with a drop of blood from their fingers or why even Bashar al-Assad’s opponents refuse to criticize him on policy?  Political cartoons seem to do a better job illustrating how Syrians vote in blood.

Bashar Al-Assad  won presidential with 88.7 percent of votes.  We find it impossible to believe that Syrian elections produced a 73.42 percent voter turnout.

Withdrawal and Withdrawing from Public

Now that Bassem Youssef’s Egyptian satire program, El-Barnamej, is gone, we are going through withdrawal.  Youssef’s commentary and interviews covered social, economic, and political issues in Egypt — one of the reasons Egypt used to be considered a media hub for the MENA region, and had no Arab media rival throughout the 1980s and 1990s …  until Al-Jazeera’s launch.

So it is with some sad resignation that we could only make up for this withdrawal by catching Egyptian human rights and social justice activist, Gigi Ibrahim’s, visit to The Daily Show, hosted by Jon Stewart.  Stewart invited Ibrahim in 2011 immediately after Hosni Mubarak’s removal.  Check out her remarks:

  1. Abdel Fateh El-Sisi’s election win despite how the ‘Freedom of Expression’ space is narrowing.
  2. Example 1: Imprisonment of Mahienoor El-Masri, Egyptian Human Rights & Labor Attorney for protesting during Egypt’s controversial Anti-Protest Law. (#FreeMahienoor)
  3. Example 2: El-Barnamej self-cancellation because Youssef does not want an Egyptian program, about Egypt, broadcast by a NON-Egyptian channel.  Egyptian reporter and photographer, @Zeinobia who blogs from Egypt, broke down the whole El Barnamej story here. To what extent will Bassem Youssef withdraw from public life?

http://thedailyshow.cc.com/extended-interviews/zbldif/gigi-ibrahim-extended-interview?xrs=share_copy_email

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Interests, Politics

93 Percent Confident that Sisi Believes It’s His Job to Reckon With #EgyEconomy

Now that Egypt’s second presidential election within two years is finished, we can not help but hum the Pet Shop Boys classic tune, “I’m With Stupid”, poking fun at political leaders’ unquestioning allies.  A few weeks ago, Qayyum expressed some optimism for Egypt’s elections on Freedom House’s blog.  Now, we are “93 percent” confident that el-Sisi supporters believe that their candidate understands that it’s his job to “reckon” with the economy.

Sooo….even though Egypt’s election commission extended voting for a third day in Egypt, Abdel Fatah el-Sisi is now Egypt’s second elected president since Mubarak’s ouster.  (El-Sisi served as Egypt’s former defense minister, who led the coup that removd Egypt’s last elected president, Muhammad Morsi.) The extra third voting day was granted due to low voter turnout.

His opponent, Hamdeen Sabahi, contested the results last week arguing that el-Sisi’s campaign violated the rule of campaigning within polling stations.  Sabahi’s campaign withdrew its monitors from the polls, complaining that security forces there were heckling them.  Sabahi’s allegation is no surprise since election rigging is commonplace in Egypt and a range of private Egyptian media outlets have favored el-Sisi’s campaign calling him the inevitable winner months before the actual election.  Sabahi’s conclusions are not without evidence.  On June 1st, an Egyptian NGO, the Committee for Monitoring & Evaluating Media Performance released its report that monitored how private channels pressured the High Presidential Election Commission (HPEC) and invited guests who heavily favored candidates.

In the end, Sabahi conceded to el-Sisi, who “won” about 93 percent of Egypt’s electorate–or 23.9 million votes.  In the 2014 presidential election case, Egypt’s electorate was less than half the country’s eligible voting population– about 47 percent.

Accusations of unfair elections process continue:  “Egypt’s repressive political environment made a genuinely democratic presidential election impossible,” Eric Bjornlund, president of Democracy International, an election-monitoring organization funded by the United States, said in a statement.

 

But the numbers game isn’t over: budgetary issues and targeted subsidies remain on the table for el-Sisi.

Getting elected Egypt’s president is nothing compared to fixing its economy

by Shaheen Pasha

There were no surprises in Egypt’s elections this week. Former general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi secured a sweeping victory after three days of lackluster turnout. His election was all but assured, given the lack of any real, credible opposition. But his real challenge lies ahead: fixing the decimated Egyptian economy. [Click here to continue.]

Sisi’s economic plan

Initial indications aren’t promising. Sisi’s “Map of the Future” economic plan, released days before the election, seems to mirror costly economic policies that were around during the Mubarak regime. The plan, calling for 48 new cities, eight airports as well as fish farms and renewable energy projects, would cost $140 billion. Sisi claims the plan will be funded by aid from Gulf countries, as well as support from Egyptians living abroad and FDI. But he gives no set plan on just how he will raise the money.

For Sisi, the election was the easy part. His win was assured. But he is taking over a country that has now overthrown two governments. To maintain public support, Egypt’s struggling economy will have to take priority in his agenda. Otherwise, he may be laying the seeds for another revolution.

To that end, Sisi faces a Herculean task. The charts below illustrate just how fragile the Egyptian economy has become in the wake of the 2011 uprising and the subsequent political turmoil in the country.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Analysis, PIDE (Policy, International Development & Economics), Politics