Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)
Wednesday,26 September, 2018
Issue 1362, (28 September - 4 October 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Blind to the good news

Egypt’s media focuses only on domestic shortcomings and says nothing about the silver linings brightening Egyptian skies, writes Mohamed Salmawy

اقرأ باللغة العربية

I wonder why our newspapers do not relay the positive news that is written about Egypt abroad. The recent Human Rights Watch report attacking the rights and freedoms record in Egypt received no end of coverage in our press. It was hard to find a newspaper here without some lengthy mention of that report. But I have not come across newspapers relaying favourable reports about us in the international press.

I’ve come across several international reports lately about investment opportunities in Egypt. The most recent was a Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) report citing Egypt as currently the best country for foreign investment in Africa. Not so long ago South Africa topped the list, but Egypt brushed passed it, sending it to second. Morocco and Ethiopia come in third and fourth place, respectively. In its “Where to Invest in Africa 2018” report, the RMB, which monitors the movement of investment capital in the world, noted that Egypt offers more to investors than any other country in Africa: low costs, higher profits and a vast market. It added that economic activity in Egypt has surpassed that of other African countries. The RMB report attributed the superiority of the Egyptian economy over other African economies to its economic reform programme that was launched in 2016 with support from the IMF, and that entailed such essential measures as the introduction of a value added tax and the gradual elimination of subsidies.

Another very important report I read recently was produced by the Middle East research unit at the internationally reputed Credit Suisse. “Egypt: Macro momentum continues to improve”, as the report is called, concludes: “While Egypt continues to face significant challenges, we remain optimistic on the outlook for fiscal consolidation and see scope for the economic recovery to steadily accelerate.” Among the indicators cited in the report is the rapid increase in foreign exchange reserves and the impact that this has had on the economic situation in general. Another important factor was the investment legislation signed into law by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in June, offering entrepreneurs numerous incentives to invest in Egypt.

This good news coincides with the announcement by the Italian energy firm, ENI, which discovered the Zohr gas field (the largest gas field discovery in the Mediterranean), that this field will go into production before the end of this year. A well has been dug at a depth of 1,450 metres below sea level. The field extends to a depth of 4,131 metres and covers an area of 100 square kilometres. The Zohr offshore gas field will give a powerful boost to the Egyptian economy and transform Egypt from an importer to an exporter of natural gas.

The Economist also featured a favourable report that went unmentioned in our press. It was about the floating of the Egyptian pound, which has inspired the wit of our cartoonists for months. The British periodical praised the many benefits that the measure has brought the Egyptian economy since it was applied. The article included a graph depicting, among other things, a remarkable increase in foreign investment attracted by favourable exchange rates as well as by the elimination of restrictions on transferring money abroad.

Meanwhile, the independent Bloomberg news agency reported that the Egyptian Central Bank has succeeded in meeting Egyptian importers’ and foreign companies’ dollar demands that have mounted to more than $1.5 billion since the pound was floated in November. In the meantime, it noted the Central Bank’s reserves have doubled since obtaining the $12 billion loan from the IMF. The reserves now stand at $36 billion.

Goldman Sachs investment bank was equally upbeat. It announced that the Egyptian economy had succeeded in reversing the deterioration that had plagued it for years and was now clearly on the road to recovery. It added that 2018 would mark the beginning of a new boom for the Egyptian economy.

What does all this mean to average Egyptians who have borne the repercussions the economic reforms have had on their daily lives? The abovementioned reports are not blind to this crucial aspect. The RMB report observed that the economic reform programme placed considerable strains on approximately half of the population that lives around the poverty line and sometimes below that. It added that the government had instituted a number of social programmes to alleviate the pressures on and protect limited income sectors.

But have the actual fruits of the reforms that are lauded in the international reports reached the average citizen? Not yet, of course. However, as the economy, in general, takes off again, this will inevitably be reflected in improved standards of living, lower rates of inflation, reduced unemployment rates and more job opportunities for youth.

So, how can all this pass without notice here? We rehash and amplify reports about human rights, while ignoring the news that indicates we are on the path to a brighter future. The international agencies that have made these predictions are highly reputed observatories that monitor economic activity around the world. Their reports are followed closely by international business and investment circles. They have a life-or-death say over the economies of the world. Why do we refuse to pay attention to them and to their reports?

We should add that our press should not only relay and help disseminate the information in those positive reports that speak of Egypt’s economic upturn and the anticipated improvements to come. Journalists should also be conducting their own investigations into those reports. They should try to ascertain their information and perhaps dig for more, draw comparisons and establish perspectives, clarify the more complex issues to laypeople and explain how the improvements will affect their daily lives. That is journalism, as opposed to just transmitting what international agencies say. But to fail to do even the transmitting and to merely home in on the attacks against us on the part of human rights groups is simply wrong.

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