Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Private Estate

Under sweeping privatisation policies, they appropriated profitable public enterprises and vast areas of state-owned lands. A small group of businessmen seized public assets and acquired monopoly positions in strategic commodity markets … While crony capitalism flourished, local industries that were once the backbone of the economy were left to decline. At the same time, private sector industries making environmentally hazardous products … have expanded without effective regulation at a great cost to the health of the population.

A tiny economic elite controlling consumption-geared production and imports has accumulated great wealth. This elite includes representatives of foreign companies with exclusive import rights in … automobiles. It also includes real estate developers who created a construction boom in gated communities and resorts for the super-rich. Much of this development is on public land acquired at very low prices, with no proper tendering or bidding.

It is estimated that around a thousand families maintain control of vast areas of the economy. This business class sought to consolidate itself and protect its wealth through political office. The … party was their primary vehicle for doing so. This alliance of money and politics became flagrant in recent years when a number of businessmen became government ministers with portfolios that clearly overlapped with their private interests.

(The leader) presided over a process in which the national wealth passed into a few private hands while the majority of the population was impoverished, with 40% living below the poverty line…. In the last few months of 2010, (citizens) protested for an increase of the minimum monthly wage… This, at a time when the prices of food staples and utilities tariffs increased at very high rates. Indeed, as one local economist asserted, every single commodity and service cost significantly more…

The legitimate social and economic demands of the people were repressed and denied, and the regime used the police to control the population. Under emergency laws, the police acquired extensive powers and engaged in surveillance and monitoring of the population. Torture and abuse in police stations became routine…

(The country) was governed as a private estate… These beneficiaries do not want to leave their palaces, beaches and resorts, lucrative businesses and extreme riches. These are fixed assets that could not be transferred outside the country – although it should be noted that the ruling elites have siphoned off much capital to foreign banks. Nonetheless, it is the country-turned-private-estate they do not wish to abandon – that’s why they deployed the thugs … to terrorise the population. This is a tactic that the … party has used on many previous occasions…. Thugs have become an arm of the police and they have been used as informants in popular quarters of the city.

Those are excerpts from a Guardian report ‘A private estate called Egypt‘.

So what were you thinking?

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