Carry on the revolution
and Mohamed El-Sayed
give readers the lowdown on the 23 July Revolution through the dreams and schemes of the pundits
Talk of the 23 July Revolution is to this day, quite literally, the talk of the town. At this time of the year it is customary for commentators to pontificate about the revolution which, over half a century after its birth, continues to create controversy concerning its pros and cons. Pundits either love it or hate it -- nobody is lukewarm about the revolution that changed the face and fortunes of Egypt forever.
Abdullah El-Sennawi, writing in the opposition weekly Al-Arabi , tackled the prickly question of the importance of the revolution's 55th anniversary. El-Sennawi attacked certain writers, such as Osama El-Ghazali Harb, who downplayed the importance of the revolution and the man who led it, former President Gamal Abdel-Nasser. "Some of the strangest opinions flying about is that the only remains of the July Revolution is its ugly face represented by the current regime."
The writer tones down his criticism a little towards the middle of the article. "Nobody can ignore the July Revolution and the political and socials transitions that followed it... what is happening now completely contradicts the essence of the principles of revolutions."
Other topics were also tackled in the press this week. Hassan Nafaa, writing in the daily independent Al-Masry Al-Yom, ridiculed US President George W Bush's call for an international conference on the Palestinian cause. "After almost five years Bush still talks about an independent Palestinian state. We all know that this American president did not do anything to put the Palestinians on the right path leading to the achievement of this goal. [We all] also know that the policies he followed since his ascent to power countered the achievement of this goal."
Nafaa openly called Bush's suggestion a cruel joke. "I dare say that the so-called Palestinian state which President Bush [is trying] to establish is no more than a fiasco."
This particular sensitive topic received much attention from other distinguished columnists. Salama Ahmed Salama, writing in the daily Al-Ahram, warned about the dire consequences of the Bush administration's lack of action and lackadaisical attitude. "Bush's commitment [to establishing an independent Palestinian state] expressed in several previous occasions has lost its credibility after his failure to implement any part of it or compel Israel to honour its pledges. [This lack of credibility] increased when American policies helped in tearing apart Palestinian ranks by inciting Fatah [to fight] Hamas."
Domestic economic policies of public concern received some attention, too, with the particularly vexing question of privatisation hitting the headlines this week. Many writers are scathingly critical of the government's privatisation policies,they are highly suspicious of the motives of the powers that be.
The weekly independent Al-Osbou ran a feature about the privatisation of the government-owned Banque du Caire. "In an attempt to hide the failure of its economic policies, the 'businessmen's' government has embarked on selling [the state-owned] Banque du Caire to foreigners, a matter that undermines its credibility." The paper went on to denounce the government and expose its motives. "The government has taken all measures to hide its intention to sell the bank, which is said to have been sold several months ago."
Continues Al-Osbou, "the government's conduct is dubious and raises questions about its anti- national and people's interests... it also raises questions about the dictates and agendas of foreign [organisations]... given that American economic circles expressed their admiration of banking and economic reforms in Egypt."
The entire experience of privatisation came under scrutiny. The weekly opposition Al-Fagr cast doubt on the government's economic policies. Manal Lashine was especially critical. "The big scandal: the government has fabricated the [figures] of foreign currency reserves by adding $7 billion to double the figure."
Lashine did not stop there. "For three years the government has been repeating lies, saying that the [foreign currency] reserves in the Central Bank has increased from $14 billion to $21 billion to $24 billion to $28 billion."
Others, however, were apologetic about the government's stance. Tareq Hassan, writing in the daily pro-government Rose El-Youssef about the bank's privatisation, came to the defence of the government. "Privatisation is not a goal unto itself. And the rationale behind [selling] Banque du Caire is the improvement of the financial sector and making it more efficient to [better] serve the national economy.
"The aim behind opposing [the selling of the bank] is for the sake of opposition and levelling accusations. The aim [of opposing the privatisation of the bank] is to avoid discussing the real results of reform and economic transition policies."
The outspoken opposition weekly Sawt Al-Umma ran a three-page feature about the privatisation of the Health Insurance Authority. "The patient revolution follows the thirsty revolution. The government sells the hospitals of the needy", read its headlines.
The paper drew parallels between the privatisation of health insurance and the water sector. The public is feeling the ripple effects of privatisation intensely. On the whole, there is a consensus that privatisation has been a failed exercise. "A few years ago the [state- owned] drinking water sector was turned into a holding company... and there were promises of great improvement in clean drinking water. But now we can see that thirst has swept the entire country and people raise empty plastic water containers in the face of the regime. And today, the government gets ready to crack down on the [health insurance] hospitals of the needy. Soon, the needy will raise their children on their shoulders, putting them up for sale."
The July Revolution was famed for its nationalisation policies, considered radical at the time. Today, the country has succumbed to the rigours of globalisation, economic deregulation and privatisation. The process of change is tortuously labourious and the people are hungry (or rather thirsty) for results. Hurry up, government, before things get worse.