Filed under: Middle East | Tags: Al-Jazeera, Cairo, Egypt, Mubarak, Qasr al-Nil Bridge
One of the more memorable scenes of the Egyptian revolution will surely be that of ordinary Egyptian’s praying on Cairo’s Qasr al-Nil Bridge as members of Egyptian state police direct their water cannons at them. Truly a remarkable sight.
via Al Jazeera
An engaging opine from Daanish Faruqi, a Senior Researcher, and Editor, at the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo. Faruqi’s opinion about the global food crisis defers markedly from the analysis of other scholars. Rather than blaming market dynamics and speculation, the onus, according to Faruqi, is on Egypt’s bad wheat policy. This really only applies to case of Egypt where government subsidies are fueling a black market for wheat. Government run bakeries are grossly mismanaged, inefficient and corrupt, and thus, the cheap wheat, which is for the poor, is siphoned off. While a few profit, ordinary Egyptians are increasingly having to deal with less bread in their diets. It does not appear that he is arguing against subsidies but rather the mismanagement of them.
This article was originally published in Daily News Egypt.
In a country with a growing economy and record-breaking foreign investment, the idea of a food crisis seems almost obsolete. Yet, on April 6, Egyptians from all walks of life united in a general strike, in solidarity with disgruntled factory workers in Mahalla, primarily over the most basic of commodities: bread.
The Egyptian Arabic term for bread, ‘aish, or ‘life,’ makes clear the centrality of bread to Egyptian life. Egyptians are a level-headed people, but try to compromise their ‘aish and they are quick to lose their tempers.
Unsurprisingly, the strike was ultimately suppressed by riot police, stationed en masse throughout Cairo to deter any meaningful attempt at peaceful protest. Nonetheless, the fact remains that an organic national movement mobilized, in a middle-income country, to demand basic foodstuffs.
How is this possible in a country awash with foreign aid and with a steadily growing economy? Sadly, few commentators to date bothered to identify the underlying problem, focusing instead on complicated market dynamics as being responsible for the current bread crisis.
The de rigueur analysis of the issue has gone something like this: the rising costs of oil -necessary to distribute foodstuffs throughout the country – coupled with a tripling of wheat prices since last summer, have spiked bread prices in Egypt to unaffordable levels. This in turn has put a monstrous strain on Egypt’s subsidized bread market, to the point that the government-subsidized bread supply can no longer keep up with the nation’s burgeoning demand. And voila, global market forces take their toll on the Egyptian marketplace, which – bolstered by popular support for worker’s rights in Mahalla -culminates in mass protest. Nothing President Mubarak or the NDP could have foreseen, such uncontrollable global economic forces, right?
But hold on a second. This is Egypt, a country that produces enough wheat to satisfy its bread requirements for at least six months. Moreover, despite the rising global costs of wheat, Egypt has more than enough hard cash on hand to satisfy the rest of its wheat needs by purchasing it on the open market. Something else must be at stake here. There is.