Social Justice: The Road to Complete the Revolution in Egypt (A Case Study on the Demands of the Masses and the Resistance of the Authorities)

Posted: 15 ديسمبر 2014 in كتابات مترجمة, كتابات سياسية

Ayman Abdel Moati

April-July 2014

In partnership with others within the book

Social Justice: Concept and Policies after the Arab Revolutions

Publishers: Arab Forum for Alternatives and Rosa Luxemburg Foundation

Cairo Conference Papers

18-19 May, 2014

To download the full version of the book

عدالة إنجليزي

Introduction

Regardless of the effectiveness of political slogans throughout history and regardless of some politicians’ skill in manipulating and using them for their own purposes, slogans are an inspiring call to action to recover a life in which human beings have equal rights and duties, a life robbed through a series of historical take-overs of power and wealth. Slogans such as liberty, fraternity and equality, that accompanied the French Revolution itself, were an expression of the need of poor classes to avoid being crushed.

So we can see the various slogans of the Arab revolutions “Bread, Freedom, Social justice, Human dignity” also as a clear expression of the situation and aspirations of the poor, middle-class Arab citizen, who is so because of governance, the economy and a society imposed upon him by ruling classes over decades. These slogans were at the beginning an expression of a fresh dream, after so many years of foreign occupation, then of oppression, exploitation and unprecedented impoverishment due to the domination of financial groups allied with a military dictatorship which led to a “deep” state bureaucracy.

The right to a living (whatever living signifies: a loaf of bread, or the right to life; both are one) is linked to the achievement of freedom and the ending of eras of repression. The bread, which is dripped in humiliation and oppression, is not up to strong bodies. Bread and freedom are two rights that are unthinkable without a balanced society in which the majority is entitled to enjoy the riches it produces. Therefore, the re-distribution of wealth and the restoring of what has been looted are the way to achieve social justice. But can the re-distribution of wealth take place without creating a democratic society where the majority makes decisions affairs of life? Only then we can talk about human dignity. Reducing the differences between social classes and reshaping the society’s class map must be accompanied by a purge and restructuring of state institutions and the community, especially the police who uses its influence and authority in favor of the rulers who monopolize wealth.

In the present situation, however, social justice is closer to a vague slogan than to a clear concept. So, much is needed to shed light on the meaning of social justice, and its relationship to a number of other economic, social and political demands. Social justice negates injustice, exploitation, oppression and deprivation of wealth and power, with no poverty, marginalization or social exclusion, and with no socially unacceptable differences between individuals, groups and regions within the state; all citizens enjoy equal economic, social, political and environmental rights, and equal freedoms It is where there is a generalized sense of fairness, solidarity and social participation, which allows all members of the community to have equal opportunities to develop their abilities and talents, to fully realize their potentials and best employ these capabilities and capacities so as to provide them with opportunities for social mobility, and that helps the community to thrive and make sustainable progress. It is also the case where the community is not exposed to economic exploitation and enjoys independence and control over national economic, social and political decisions.[1]

Economic Growth is not a Criterion (1952- 2011)

Although the demand for social justice in Egypt is ages old, we confine ourselves here to presenting a short introduction to a recent period of Egypt’s modern history, starting with the taking-over of power by the military following the evacuation of the British occupation; a prelude that simplifies the linkage with the period of Mubarak’s rule and the outbreak of the Revolution, and ending with our current situation three years after the Revolution.

The regime of the July 23, 1952 Officers Movement was since inception aware of the demands of the masses, which had long and loudly called for social justice, after eras of slave-like labour by workers and peasants, who were paid very low wages and lived a miserable life. This led the Movement to introduce a series of procedures and to enact a package of laws, jointly called by some “socialism”. Intended to build an independent developmental state, the July Government and Abdel Nasser sought to raise the rates of growth and industrialization. These policies began when army officers reached power and when they introduced a series of agricultural reform laws to attract investments in agricultural and industrial industries, nationalized the Suez Canal and a number of companies to secure enough funds for the state treasury. This enabled the state to execute major projects, and introduce five-year plans for advancing the economy. This policy did not materialize but through providing some concessions to the labour force, and the expansion of education and employment development created a certain degree of stability. Of course, this took place amid a wave of severe repression to get rid of all the political forces opposed to the new rule on the right and left alike.

Upon the arrival to power of Sadat following the death of Abdel Nasser, who had handpicked him as his deputy, and on the backdrop of an economic and political crisis which began to seize the Egyptian consciousness due to a failed development plan and the setback of June 5, 1967, Sadat believed the earlier approach to stability must be changed: policy turned from the Soviets to the United States, and from war with Israel to a peace agreement sponsored by American imperialism. The independent development economy shifted to a parasitic economy so as to widely open the door for foreign investment, ultimately leading to the spread of corruption, nepotism and the beginning of the collapse of the national industry and the agricultural sector; this led to the popular uprising of January 1977 and demands to end the tampering with the lives of the Egyptians, to undo the decision to raise prices, and put an end to the deterioration of living standards at a time when the interests of a minority of traders, smugglers and brokers thrived at the expense of people’s daily livelihoods.

With the arrival of Mubarak, the second heir of power, things got even worse. The industries got into a process of collapse due to encouraging the private sector and private investment at the expense of plans to replace and renovate public sector companies, which the State had decided to get rid of for privatization. Ultimately this resulted in the ousting tens of thousands of workers through early retirement and selling their companies at the cheapest prices, this came in response to the structural adjustment program imposed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in exchange for aid and loans to be repaid by the poor. Appointments in the civil service were suspended and the state became no longer responsible for its citizens and workers. It became a party only responsible for securing facilities for investors and for suppressing anyone who even thought of confronting the regime and its plans. This eventually led to the control by businessmen of the reins of power under the Ahmed Nazif Government, which operated with full capacity to implement even more neo-liberal policies up until the Egyptian economy was ranked 81st in world economic competitiveness, according to the World Economic Forum in 2009, whereas it ranked 77 in 2008, 71 in 2006, and 53 in 2005. [2]

Successive regimes have boasted, ever since July 23, 1952 until January 25, 2011, about the achievement of high economic growth rates. The World Bank announced in its report no. 870 that Egypt was able to achieve an average annual growth rate of 6% in GDP and of 3% in the period 1967- 1973, at fixed prices.[3]   Later on, the rate of growth in GDP increased as a result of higher oil revenues and transfers from the Egyptians working abroad. Under the rule of Mubarak, the average growth rate reached 6.99% during the period 1980 – 1984 and declined to 2.92 % during the period 1985 – 1989, whereas it started rising again in the fiscal year 2006-2007 until 2008-2009 at rates ranging around 7.1%. A slight recovery in the economy took place as a result of the proceeds from the privatization of companies. Moreover, a large surplus was achieved in net international reserves, which amounted to a peak of about 36 billion dollars in December 2010.[4] In fact, these growth rates are virtual, not real; they do not take into account any change in prices and their impact on the incomes of citizens.

But the ultimate goal of any economy is to get the vast majority of the population to lead a dignified and safe life, and this means: 1) that at least the majority are provided with all basic requirements of life, which is what might be called ” sufficiency “; 2) that differences in the levels of living among the population are not exaggerated to a non-humanitarian extent, which is what might be called “justice”; 3) that security of human beings is achieved, that is, they are not threatened by any loss of income or by the deterioration of their living standards, which is what might be called “security.”[5] Therefore, achieving growth is not an end in itself, from the perspective of the majority, if not reflected in the improvement of their standard of living and in ensuring a stable and safe life.

What proves that the economic growth has not reflected well on the lives of the Egyptians and employment policies is the unemployment rate index. In 1960 the unemployment rate was 2.5% of the total size of the workforce, and in 1976 statistics the figure jumped to 7.7%, then to 14.7% in 1986, and fell to 8.8% in 1996, and rose again in 2002 until reaching 9.1%. These official figures relate only to blatant unemployment; they do not include seasonal unemployment, or those who work in crafts and marginal, unorganized sectors. Meanwhile, scientific studies estimate the size and rate of real unemployment in Egypt, according to figures and data declared by the Supreme Committee for Employment of the Council of Ministers, is about twice that of the official record. The worst features of the domination of capital over power were evident during the Mubarak era, when 2% of the population earned 40% of the total national income and 8% of the population received two-thirds of the national income, whereas 68% of the population received no more than a quarter of the national income.[6]

Revolutionary Egypt Facing the Injustice of Mubarak

Such social injustice has not passed peacefully. Although Mubarak had learned the lesson of the January 1977 Uprising, he was insistent on pursuing social and economic policies unjust to the vast majority of the people. So, the protest movement against those policies continued. The protest movement in Egypt during the rule of Mubarak passed through three phases. The first began with the wave of protests of Mahalla workers in 1984 and ended with the famous sit-in of the iron and steel workers in August 1989. These were followed by lean years of activism in the1990s, which saw but two sparks of workers uprising: in Kafr Al-Dawar in 1994, and the peasant uprising in 1997 against the expulsion from agricultural land; in addition to this an almost unnoticed general strike was held by the miners and quarries in 1994. The protest movement again revived early in the new millennium with the wide solidarity movement with the Palestinian intifada (2000-2002), followed by the movement against the imperialist war on Iraq (2002-2003). Then emerged the Movement for Democratic Change (2004-2006), which was followed by a rising movement of Mahalla workers and the employees from the Real Estate Tax Authority and a number of the employees of companies suspended or privatized (2006-2008). The movement continued rising and was represented by the National Assembly for Change (2009-2010); the rejection of martial trials and police methods of repression, and the moving of workers’ protests to sidewalks of trade-union premises, however, the Revolution sparked in January 25, 2011, in protest against the overall policies of impoverishment and injustice due to the high rate of unemployment, the lack of human housing and health, the poor living conditions, the high commodity prices, the poor basic services, and the wide-spread of corruption, as well as restrictions on political freedoms, the continued imposition of the state of emergency, suppression and brutality of the police, the lack of freedom of expression, and last but not least, the election fraud.

Thus, the Revolution was not the result of a single moment of anger, but of the accumulation and explosion of a history of political and social struggle against the policies of plundering, corruption, repression and impoverishment.

We can trace the rise and retreat of the movement by viewing the overall protests that accompanied Mubarak’s rule during the last ten years in power. The number of protests reached in 2000 was 135, and fell to 115 in 2001, and continued to decline in 2002 and 2003 to reach 96 and 86 protests respectively, but in 2004 they rose to 266 protests and then fell again in 2005 to 202, then escalated slightly in 2006 to 222, but then they started to increase in 2007 to reach 614 protests, followed by 609 in 2008, 700 in 2009, and dropping to 530 protests in 2010.”[7]

Figures in themselves are not significant – despite their analytical importance. They alone are not sufficient to understand the development and processes of the Movement. But perhaps the direct significance of the increasing number of protests, the diverse methods, and the participation of many sectors are indications on the escalation of the Movement and its ability to develop its voice and demands through momentum and to get used to the ongoing repetition of struggle.

Mubarak’s overall policies during the third/last decade of his rule were strongly rejected. Following that, it became clear for all to see that what he’d done during the first and second decades in power would bring nothing more than misery because of his policies of impoverishment and brutal repression, that came about after his battle against Islamist militants in the 1990s. So it was easy for the demonstrators in the Tahrir Square on 20 and 21 March, 2003 to be fully aware of the real stance of Mubarak and his regime, after being brutally suppressed for opposing the war and besiege on Iraq, where children were dying while searching for a tin of milk. The siege on Iraq is the same as the siege on Egypt, Mubarak helps to kill the Iraqis and Egyptians who show solidarity with them. The scenes downing and burning of Mubarak’s picture, which was repeated in the Mahalla strike events of April 6, 2008, was the start of the end of a regime which heavily perched on the chests of Egyptians through repression and the forging of their will in the ballot box.

Indeed, committees and campaigns were organized to fight the battle for change. Preventing the intended extension of Mubarak rule or the inheriting of power to his son was the endeavor of the Kefaya (Enough) Movement, whose mobility had receded in mid-2006, following the presidential and parliamentary elections which had long been strongly forged maintaining the image of the old-aged dictator and his regime. But unexpectedly, the end of 2006 witnessed a wide workers strike at the Mahalla Spinning and Weaving Company, it lasted for three consecutive days and demanded two months of profits. The strike was resumed in the year 2007, which also witnessed the uprising of the unemployed, demanding the right for every citizen to work and the Thirst Uprising in a number of villages and cities in Egypt. Since then the squares and sidewalks of Egypt have become places of demonstration for all the unjustly treated people: workers from all sectors without wages for months or demobilized from their work, employees, teachers, unemployed, disabled, and residents of poor localities etc. As for the major slap to the state, it was through the disobedience of its employees whom it had been taming for many years as part of its bureaucratic control. This disobedience was manifested in the heroic, historical sit-in of the estate taxes employees, which resulted – in addition to realizing their demands – in forming their first independent trade union for fifty years. Egypt’s workers did not subside despite a relative retreat of their visibility; the Democratic Change Movement came back to lead the scene again. In March 2010 the Egyptian working class got a ruling from the administrative judiciary to ensure presidents, ministers and the National Council for Wages set a minimum wage of 1200 pounds which is compatible with the cost of living and which ensures a decent life for workers. The regime tried to circumvent the ruling and to empty it of its contents. It issued a decision that the minimum total wage is to be set at 400 pounds per month, and that it applies to private sector workers only, excluding the workers of the public and government sectors, [8] but this decision was strongly rejected by the workers. Thus confrontations between the masses and the Mubarak regime continued, until 2010 which witnessed a state of severe anger directed at the police, the repressive arm of the Regime, which spread havoc and oppression in society so extreme that the cases of torture and murder at the hands of the Interior Ministry’s agents became gut-wrenching. The result was the formation of several youth groups that took to streets denouncing the practices of police oppression. This culminated in the call to demonstrate against police repression on January 25, 2011 corresponding with the Police Anniversary. Thus Egypt witnessed a popular revolution that nobody expected to occur with such speed and power.

Social Justice in the Programs of Political Forces

Despite the social nature of the protest movement in Egypt, the political movement has, unfortunately, played a role which confines the conflict. In spite of calls for measures that would put an end to corruption and economic problems such as unemployment and development, the political elites were satisfied that their struggle against the person of Mubarak and the symbols of the Regime was enough, without directing the battle towards the heart of the governing system itself. These elites merely sought to change the political form of government without compromising its content, which gave birth to corruption, dictatorship and exploitation and consequently to the impoverishment and marginalization of the majority of citizens. Thus, the Kefaya (Enough) movement, followed by the National Association for Change, focused on the issues of democratic change. Such elites continued to act, even after the revolution, represented by the political parties and various political forces, for power transition and political change, while being drowned in the whirlpool of parliamentary and presidential elections, the drafting of the constitution, and dragged behind the agenda of the transitional stage, away from the immediate popular demands for better living conditions and ensuring the right to live safely through the provision of housing, food, free treatment and education, employment and living in dignity

Nevertheless, programs of almost all parties, from extreme Right to extreme Left, were not void of talk about issues related to social justice, offering visions and programs to address dilemmas such as poverty, unemployment and the housing problem, and to create plans for development and economic reform, and health promotion and education, etc.

The program of the New WafdParty, the most famous liberal background in the history of Egyptian political parties, emphasizes the need to “ensure social justice in the distribution of income and development returns among all citizens; we will not accept that the minority gets the largest proportion of the national income, while the majority of the people of Egypt live under the poverty line.” The Party even called for a minimum wage to be considered every 3 years, and the adoption of a system of unemployment insurance. [9] Whereas the Free Egyptians Party believes in”the market economy as an engine for comprehensive economic and social development,” it views as necessary the “phasing of subsidies for petroleum products, gas and electricity obtained by both public sector and private companies which sell their products in accordance with market economics,” in addition to “launching a national project to eliminate poverty in Egypt” – within a twenty-year period – with the participation of all the state civil institutions, the armed forces, the business sector, civil society institutions and international donor organizations.[10] In the opinion of the Dostur Party,“the primary goal of economic development is to provide for the needs of citizens and society, to improve the living conditions of all, and to provide a framework that allows for the progress and prosperity of society, away from want and need and secures freedom from exploitation. Hence the need for the State to formulate and get the economic life back on track, through its inherent role in the development of policies and legislation, and in leading the economic development process so that the market mechanisms are oriented in the direction desired by the community as a whole, and achieving both social justice and economic progress”. It states that we “cannot talk seriously about a project for economic development without the provision of basic needs for the Egyptian citizen such as food, clothing, housing, health care and education. Thus, social justice, based on equal opportunities and the provision of a decent life for all Egyptians, is essential for just and comprehensive development of our country.[11] The aim of Egypt Freedom Party “is to build a society of social justice by ensuring a better distribution of income, a commitment to a minimum wage based upon objective criteria, and to build integrated networks of health care, social security, pensions, unemployment benefits, disability and others.” The Party maintains that the level of the minimum wage should be based “on its linkage with the level of productivity, the cost of living and the food requirements in accordance with international norms and standards. Also, the minimum wage should be flexible, not fixed, depending on changes in economic conditions, and responding to price inflation, unemployment and the cost of living in different regions of Egypt.” [12]

As for the leftist parties, the National Progressive Unionist Party (al Tagammu’), stresses theneed to preserve the acquired rights of workers and the economic, social and trade union rights, to ensure a minimum wage which is sufficient for basic needs of human living, achieving a balance between prices and wages in order to prevent the deterioration of the living standards of workers, the application of a comprehensive tax reform that aims at achieving Social justice in favour of low-income groups, the reconsidering of the new tax law which is biased to the big capitalists and wealthy, through liquidating the indirect taxes and fees invented by the government and shouldered by the poor and middle income groups, reducing the sales tax, increasing the taxes on industrial and commercial profits, and tightening the sanctions on evaders of taxes. [13] The Egyptian Social Democratic Party, maintains that “the concept of citizenship in the social democratic thought stresses the protection of economic and social rights of citizens, which ensures that all citizens have the right to enjoy an economically decent and dignified life, secure from want, with the right to get suitable work, justice in the distribution of income and equal opportunities. Such concepts entail the intervention of the State as a guarantor of these rights in case the market forces are unable to meet them, along with the state’s political role in regulating the economy, preventing monopolistic practices and adjusting the rhythm of the market. The Party believes that the optimal economic system is that which achieves economic efficiency and social justice at the same time.”[14] The SocialistPopular Alliance Party believes “building an alternative model of development based on investment in human beings, the development of their creative capabilities and ensuring social justice through effective measures for the distribution of wealth and income in favor of the real producers. The party works on the development of the national economy, in which the state formulates a comprehensive development plan which specifies investment in vital sectors, strategy and liquidation of monopolies and activates antitrust laws in various fields.”[15] The Arab DignityParty seeks to “build the comprehensive social security society, to meet the basic rights and needs of the human being, and to secure the rights of education, employment and medical treatment, housing, insurance, and pension and a clean environment for every citizen as being natural, constitutional and binding rights. Such rights – together with equitable distribution of wealth – are essential elements of human development, which are the symbol of the nation’s modernity and progress.”[16]

As for the Islamic parties, the Freedom and Justice Party believes that “the achieving of social justice and ensuring the distribution of revenues from economic activity in a way to achieve justice, equality and equal opportunities are of the most important duties of the State. Building on such responsibility, the objective of our program is to face rising prices, to eliminate poverty and unemployment, to provide basic public services such as facilities, education, health care and transportation, to improve the living conditions of workers and peasants, to find practical solutions to social problems such as elderly people living alone, street children and people with special needs, to raise the living standards of families with dependent members, and to increase the incomes of pensioners.”[17] In the meantime, the program of the StrongEgypt Party believes that “social justice, and achieving a high level of sufficiency for citizens, without discrimination, is one of the main pillars of our program, and is the overarching goal in our vision for the economy, and even national security. We believe that social responsibility is a right of the people vis-a-vis the State, which materializes through the introduction of programs of action and decision making devoted to the human being, who is the goal of its actions, and the end for its effort, (the state) protects his dignity, and treats him well.”[18] The Nour Party believes that the achieving of social justice “in the distribution of income and wealth among the sons of the Egyptian society will achieve social solidarity, and spread the spirit of love, harmony, cooperation, stability and confidence and reflects positively on the renaissance of the society and its economic growth.”[19]

As for the most prominent youth movements, the April 6 Youth Movement stresses the necessity of introducing “a minimum wage for all categories of jobs and wages, and linking wages with prices as is the case in all countries which suffer from price rises, together with substantial measures aiming at freezing the prices, prevention of monopoly and prevention of the clutter of the market.”[20]The Youth Movement for Justice and Freedom believes in the need to struggle for freedom and democracy, alongside the need to engage in a movement demanding social justice, and to support the toiling classes that demand a decent human life. And that change will only be realized if the masses act to gain their rights, and that their role is to try to link the social and political demands and to resist the general tendency to separate them.[21] The Coalition of Revolution Youth emphasizes the need for “the adoption of minimum and maximum wages (by 1:15), while linking them to real rates of inflation and to increase in prices, annulling the Labour Law # 12 of the year 2003, which permitted the dismissal and displacement of workers, and making them like slaves to the employer, acting to provide work for all the unemployed, enacting a law granting an unemployment benefit equal to half the minimum wage until work is found for each job seeker, stopping all projected privatization of health institutions and making medical treatment a right of every citizen, cancelling all debts of the peasants due to the Development and Agricultural Credit Bank and abolishing all court rulings that sentenced them to imprisonment for not affording to pay such debts, restarting all companies closed in order to create new jobs, and stopping the corrupt privatization program, investigating all corrupt deals throughout the sales of the public sector, holding responsible those corrupt people involved, the recovery and operation of such companies, and employing workers therein.[22]

So, most of the above-mentioned parties and movements believe that the following objectives are the ones they seek to realize: placing a priority for public spending in health and education sectors; a minimum wage; preventing monopoly and the delivery of subsidies to those who deserve them, the introduction of a progressive tax system, the development of slums and providing them with services and facilities and building suitable housing, and the right of citizens to employment and human treatment. Then what is the difference between these parties and movements? Why are they separated, as their programs are aiming – with different wordings – at the same goals: developing the economy, sustainable development and improving the standard of living of the citizens? The answer is not to be found in programs, but rather in the political practices and social biases in reality. We find businessmen associated with such parties evading the payment of taxes, or dismissing workers in their companies under any pretext, or deliberately abstaining from and hindering the implementation of the minimum wage, or when in charge of ministerial portfolios they make decisions that endanger the lives of citizens, as was the case coal was substituted for gas in operating plants, or abandoning the issues of workers and acting in accordance with state plans and business interests, even though they had always been at the forefront of the protesters. The political practices of such parties show us these programs are mere rhetoric, not demands to struggle for. Unfortunately, it is now evident that these parties have become royalists more than the king himself; the moment they were first tested they chose to monopolise power, not share it. The experience of the Muslim Brotherhood in the era of Morsi and of some civil parties in the transitional government of July 3, 2013 is an example which illustrates that policies are one thing and practice is something else entirely different.

The Adverse Role of Foreign Powers in Development

Egypt was immersed in external and local debt; its external debts amounted to more than 47 billion dollars by September 2013. This fact perhaps could serve as an introduction to illustrate the tragic consequences we are facing due to borrowing from abroad. Ever since its “national independence,” Egypt has depended on foreign aid in the form of non-refundable grants and loans with interests on repayments. Following the rejection by the United States to finance the High Dam project, the regime led, then by Nasir, turned towards the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Later on when Sadat assumed power, he decided to expel the Russians and turned towards America and the West, thus responding to the new phase of economic openness and liberalization of the market. In the wake of the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Agreement in 1979, the US President Jimmy Carter announced the decision to provide an annual economic and military aid to both Egypt and Israel. As of 1982, the aid turned into a non-refundable grant of three billion dollars to Israel, and $2.1 billion for Egypt, of which $ 815 million is economic aid, and $1.3 billion is military aid. US aid to Egypt amounts to 57% of the total national inflow from international donors and grants coming from the European Union, Japan and other countries. At the same time, the amount of US aid does not exceed 2% of the total national income of Egypt. Egypt committed itself to the conditions of aid which led to the purchase of military equipment from the United States. America has provided Egypt with about $ 7.3 billion during the period 1999-2005 in the framework of the program for foreign military funding aid, while Egypt has spent during the same period almost half of the aid ($3.8 billion) on purchases of American heavy military equipment. [23]

This impacted the Egyptian economy with the size of US direct investments in Egypt reaching $3 billion, including $ 2.3 billion in the oil sector and $700 million in the production and services sectors. Thus the American investments in Egypt amounted to 33% of the total American investment in the Middle East and to 5.2% of foreign investments in Egypt. 45.3% of Egyptian exports head to the US markets, whereas Egypt’s imports from the US reach 21.2% of its total imports.[24]

The economic aid, totalling 24.3 billion US dollars during the last quarter of a century (1975-2000), has been distributed according to various sectors or items as follows: 6.7 billion dollars for goods imports (27.6% of the total); 5.9 billion dollars for infrastructure projects, including water irrigation, sanitation, public health, electric power, communications and transportation (24.3% of the total); 4.5 billion dollars for basic services such as health, family planning, education, agriculture and the environment (18.5% of the total); 3.9 billion dollars for food aid during the period 1975- 1990 (16% of the total); and $ 3.3 billion in cash transfers and technical assistance in the field of policy reforms and structural adjustment such as training and the providing of investment and so on (13.5% of the total). [25]

After the fall of Mubarak, the IMF began negotiations with the Egyptian authorities – then, the Supreme Council of Armed Forces – to start a new arrangement for loans, the last similar loan of which was terminated in the 1990s. In June 2011, the Fund allocated a loan of US $3 billion to Egypt. Following the ascendance of President Morsi to power in June 2012, the loan was raised to $ 4.8 billion, but has not been received by Egypt so far, despite the harsh conditions imposed by the Fund which are historically known as policy reform, and economic restructuring, the costs of which are paid by the poor only. The traditional structural adjustment programs imply deep economic and social changes, and have a variety of objectives: “to increase production levels, despite the fact that in the early stages, the initial wages are low; the elimination of waste and inefficiency during the “rationalization” of the economy according to signals dictated by market expansion; achieve a higher degree of openness to foreign competition and integration into the global economy through liberalization of trade and financial liberalization; modifying the economic and social relations and the shift in the distribution of resources, rights and privileges toward social groups benefiting from the market; responding to the needs and interests of international capital of powerful global and local influence, including large financial institutions, trans-national corporations and international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. [26]

The visits by the first Prime Minister IssamSharaf, after the revolution to a number of Arab countries resulted in promises of US $25 billion, but until mid-January 2012 Egypt did not get even one billion dollars out of this sum for grants and aids, including half a billion dollars from Saudi Arabia in the form of commodity, gas and petroleum products, and half a billion dollars in cash from Qatar.[27]

The Gulf aid is conditional on the nature of the ruling regime. In the days of Morsi, Qatar provided ​​an initial package of financial aid to Egypt, worth 2.5 billion dollars, of which $ 0.5 billion was a grant and $ 2 billion a deposit and of which one of the deposits is to be transferred into an additional grant so that the grants totalled $ 1 billion and the deposits doubled, to around $ 4 billion.[28] But Qatar soon asked Egypt to return the $2 billion deposit after the fall of Morsi. At this time, three Gulf countries announced aid of up to 15.9 billion dollars: five billion dollars from Saudi Arabia, 6.9 billion dollars from the United Arab Emirates and four billion dollars from Kuwait.[29] The role of such assistance was limited so far to petroleum products and pumping amounts of money in the Central Bank, thus raising the foreign exchange reserves from 14.9 billion dollars at the end June 2013 to 17.1 billion dollars at the end January 2014. [30]

Since the start of lending in Egypt in 1979, the European Investment Bank signed 70 loans and 50 capital risk operations in both the public and private sectors with a total value of about 5.1 billion euros, and benefiting from the total investment an amount of almost 20 billion euros. According to Gamal Bayoumi, Secretary-General of the Union of Arab Investors, the Bank decided to extend to Egypt 900 million euros annually in the form of loans.[31]

As for the operations of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Egypt, the Bank had a specific plan that was announced to the civil society organizations working in Egypt. The Bank also stated that it would work in the framework of the political and economic plan submitted by the Egyptian regime, about which we know nothing, as it has not been declared in any form neither to the civil society organizations nor to the Parliament or the public.[32]

Without going into the maze of projects and the distribution of loans between them, lenders themselves choose their own type of projects in which to inject loans, these could be energy projects or the development of transport networks. This means that lenders benefit from the proceeds of these projects in the form of new investments, or they benefit directly from them by directing those services to serve the interests of foreign investors who belong to the countries of those lenders, without paying attention to any revenues that would develop the standards of living of citizens in the borrowing country.[33] An example of these is the Deauville Partnership, an initiative of the G8 countries and important partners, led by the International Monetary Fund and international financial institutions like the African Development Bank, the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, the Arab Monetary Fund, the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Islamic Development Bank, the OPEC Fund for Development, and the World Bank, and others. They are key players in achieving the objectives of the Partnership. The Deauville Partnership prescribes economic packages that follow free-market policies, open markets and trade liberalization, value is placed on attracting foreign direct investment, privatization, and public expenditure cuts are seen as important for the sake of economic reform. These same policies have been long pursued by the Arab states, only to the effect of increased rates of poverty and unemployment, and added social injustice and marginalization of new dimensions. So, the significance of Deauville and other frameworks, whether international or European, lies in reducing the area of ​​choice and the ability of states to take the appropriate decision and to set public policy away from pressures and conditions. Thus such frameworks are defying attempts at change made by the Arab peoples since the ignition of the spark of Tunisia Revolution in late 2010.[34]

Demands of the Masses and the Resistance of the Authorities

Nothing has improved in the lives of Egyptians after the Revolution – such statements are repeatedly uttered by people on a daily basis; it is entirely correct. Wages have declined relative to their purchasing power, and there is no justice in the wages distribution scale, where disparity between workers is mostly due to what is known as “changing wage items” such as allowances, bonuses and profits that would normally be approved in accordance with special laws and procedures, which ultimately turned the wages scale to a delusive scale, quite different from reality as 80% of the amount allocated to wages accrue to 30% of the workers while the remaining 20% accrue to 70% of workers.[35] In addition the inflation rate increased to 9.82% in 2013; also the rate of unemployment among the youth reached 54.1% in 2013, the highest in the Arab region. [36]In general, its average reached 13.4% in January 2014, compared to 12.4% in January 2012, while it was 9.4% in 2010 a year before the Revolution. Poverty rates in Egypt rose to 26.3% in 2012-2013, compared to 25.2% in 2010- 2011, and 16.7% in 1999-2000.[37] A report by the Center for Information and Decision-Making Support of the Egyptian Cabinet, referring to the wide social effects of poverty, states that the total number of slum areas in Egypt is 1171 inhabited by about 14.8 million people. It is estimated that 86.2% of the total households in Egypt live in inappropriate housing, accompanied by the lack of facilities and basic services of water, sanitation, electricity and health services.[38] Consumer prices of food and beverages increased by 16.3% between January 2010 and September 2013. The number of vulnerable households who say that their income does not cover increases in monthly expenses rose from 78.9% in September 2011 to 88.9% in March 2013 (The Egyptian Food Observatory, 2013).[39]

Despite the worsening situation, the post-Revolution governments have pressured citizens not to protest against their policies by narrowing their opportunities of improving their living standards, and by working to restrict their movement and further activism. Only three days after Mubarak stepped down, the ruling Military Council issued a statement condemning what it described as the continued “factional movements” and called for confronting them.[40] On April 12, 2011, the Council issued a decree by law criminalizing sit-ins, strikes and “factional” protests,[41] while punishing those who instigate, call for or participate with imprisonment and excessive fines. Prior to the convening of the first elected parliament after the Revolution, the Council issued a law allowing reconciliation with the symbols of corruption in investment crimes.[42] The HazemBeblawi Government issued a new law that prohibits demonstrations and gives the police the right to break up the protests by force.[43]   To protect corruption and not to make it subject to any supervision or accountability, the Interim President Adli Mansour approved a law preventing any third party to challenge contracts concluded with investors, thus making corruption protected by force of law. Although HishamQandil, the Prime Minister of the Morsi Government, was tried on charges of refraining from implementing judicial rulings that cancelled the sale contracts of a number of public sector companies, the Beblawi Government prepared a bill that prevents the trial of the person in charge if the implementation of such rulings was not permissible, “due to radical changes introduced by the buyer to the Company.” [44]

But such conditions and policies did not impair the continued escalation of protests, particularly the social ones. There are no documented figures on the 2011 Revolution protests, but the number of protests in 2012 reached 3817 events throughout the year,[45] the year when power was shared by both the Military Council and Morsi. Meanwhile, the number of protests in 2013 reached 5232, including 2239 workers’ protests,[46] which was the year when power was shared by both the dismissed President Mohamed Morsi, and the July 3 transitional regime.

It seems that the situation is likely to escalate; especially as the social justice demands have not been fulfilled by decision-makers. For example, the transitional government decided few weeks before the presidential elections to cancel the energy subsidies and to increase the prices of gas, electricity, gasoline and diesel fuel, in an unheard of act by a transitional government. So in early July 2014 citizens suffered increases in the prices of fuel and transport, and the majority of the most needed goods. It is then very likely that the coming period will witness a new revolutionary wave which may not be confined to the yards only, but could include various residential neighbourhoods and workplaces. This would make things more complicated for the new authority and put it to the test: either it aligns itself to the demands of the masses and realizes the goals of their revolution, primarily social justice, or it faces the same fate as its predecessors.

Finally, it is true that using the social justice slogans in every struggle does not automatically mean there is a continuation of the revolution, and thus a social and political victory. It is true that the Egyptian workers have played a central role in toppling Mubarak, and have been empowered by the battles of the revolution – which had a high degree of organization and politicization. However, the responsibility for achieving the demands of the revolution and the victory of the masses rests on the shoulders of the social and radical forces alone. In playing the role of an engine, and in demonstrating the social and class character of the movement, it has shown the masses have a genuine interest in politics that are an expression of equal social conditions.

[1] Ibrahim al-Issawi, “Social Justice: from a Vague Slogan to a Defined Concept “, Al-Shouruq, (Cairo) October 1, 2012 ( in Arabic) http://is.gd/VQbN1z

[2]“From the Economic Boom in the Era of Muhammad Ali and Gamal Abdel Nasser to the Deterioration of the Economy because of Corrupt Regimes”, ‘Alam al-Taqniyawal-“Amalhttp://is.gd/DsJoYv

[3] World Bank: Egypt, The Economic Report, http://is.gd/FwJccQ

[4] Muhammad HasanYousef, Factional Demands in Egypt after January Revolution, The Problem and Solutions, al-Jazeera Studies Center, 6 May, 2013, http://is.gd/xpG62j

[5] Tamer Wajeeh, unpublished paper entitled: “The Social Justice” , 2013.

[6] The program of the Arab Dignity Party, http:/is.gd/7BywzD

[7] Joel Benin, Struggle for the rights of Egypt’s workers, A report prepared by the Center for International Labor Solidarity, 2010, p. 17-18, http:/is.gd/0nLcKs

[8] Workers and Revolution (a Legal View), the Egyptian Center and Awlad al-Ardh Monitoring the Harbingers of the Revolution and its Impact on Workers, 16 February 2011 http://ecesr.org/?p=2967

[9] program of the New Wafd Party http://is.gd/iKS16p

[10] Program of the Free Egyptians Party http://is.gd/xzMh46

[11] Program of the Constitution Party http://is.gd/xNzcRJ

[12]Program of Egypt Freedom Party http://is.gd/GnVNCy

[13] program of the Tajamu’ Party http://is.gd/7bGnc5

[14] Program of the Egyptian Social Democratic Partyhttp://is.gd/QheTt2

[15] Program of the Popular Socialist Alliance Party http://is.gd/UVhaxg

[16] Program of the Arab Dignity Party http://is.gd/7BywzD

[17] Program Freedom and Justice Party http://is.gd/Kp63Ph

[18] Program of Strong Egypt Party http://is.gd/U9y9ql

[19] Program of the al-Nour Party http://is.gd/YWLtxI

[20] Statement of the April 6 Youth Movement on June 20, 2008

[21] Launching of the “Youth for Justice and Freedom” movement, at The Journalists Union headquarters, Masress, July 18, 2010 http://is.gd/dAFYjr

[22] Statement entitled: “Social Demands for the “Coalition of the Revolution Youth,” dated February 27, 2011.

[23] Wikipedia http://is.gd/mZzce8

[24] Abdel-WahabKhader, ” Again, about the U.S. Aid to Egypt!”, Modern Discussion, August 3, 2010 http://is.gd/lsVUV7

[25]Samiha Abdul Halim, “The American Aid and the Policy of Carrot and Stick”, AkhbarMisr, October 20, 2013 http://is.gd/2vZ6DC

[26]Mahinur al-Badrawi, and Habiba Ramadan, “International Funding Organizations in Egypt”, a report to be published, the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights.

For more on the role of the European Investment Bank in financing projects in Egypt, please read the following reports which describe the pattern of the country’s borrowing from the European Investment Bank (1979-2011), according to the 2012 report on the operations of the Bank in Egypt http://is.gd/UKuGYu

[27] Dr. Salah Judah, Blogs direct, August 2, 2012 http://is.gd/koJ6Ko

[28] Five billion dollars aid from Qatar to Egypt, Al Jazeera.Net, January 8, 2013 http://is.gd/SqLKlT

                        [29]Muheet Network, Egypt receives 15.9 billion dollars Gulf aid since the beginning of July, October 30, 2013 http://is.gd/vQ2RiH

[30]Asma’ al-Kholi, ” The Role of the Gulf aid in supporting the Egyptian Economy since the Revolution in January 2011 and its Impact on Foreign Exchange Reserves”, Middle East Online, March 29, 2014 http://is.gd/H6Lp4h

[31]Mahinur al-Badrawi, and Habiba Ramadan, International Funding Organizations in Egypt, op. cit.

[32] ibid.

[33] We have not detailed the European aid to Egypt in the form of grants or loans, as this issue was covered in the paper presented by Heba Khalil (in this book).

[34] Heba Khalil, EU Policies and Social Justice in the Arab States: What has the European Union learned from the Arab Revolutions? (A Critical View), included in this book.

[35] Hussein Abdel Razek, ” The Future of Social Justice in Egypt”, Al-Ahali, 12 February 2013 http://is.gd/3bB6B1

[36] Human Development Report 2013, the UNDP in the Arab States, March 14, 2013, http://is.gd/LAvfkN

[37] In Figures: Poverty in Egypt in One Year (Info graph) http://is.gd/AgwyNH

[38] Hussein Abdel Razek, The Future of Social Justice in Egypt, op. cit.

[39] The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Statistics of Parallel Report… about the Hearing on Accountability of Egypt before the United Nations Committee, http://ecesr.org/?p=767168

[40] The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Statement No. 5, February 14, 2011, http://is.gd/Wbm58h

                        [41]Decree by Law No. 34 for the year 2011 on criminalizing the assault on the freedom of action and sabotage of installations http://is.gd/IDzCWn

                        [42]Decree by Law No. 4 of 2012 on authrizing of reconcilation with investorsregarding investment crimeshttp://is.gd/3Otjf9

[43] Law No. 107 of 2013, on the right to organize public meetings, processions and peaceful demonstrations http://is.gd/OnzXJr

[44]The stock market publishes a draft law to protect the actions of senior officials, the stock market, November 10, 2013 http://is.gd/onBa3a

[45] The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Report on Workers’ Protests, 2012, April 28, 2013, http://ecesr.org/p=766854

[46] The Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Report on Workers’ Protests, 2013, July 7, 2014, http://ecesr.org/p=768677

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