Egypt post-election: now what?



BlaiseP is the pseudonym of a peripatetic software contractor whose worldly goods can fit into an elderly Isuzu Rodeo. Bitter and recondite, he favors the long view of life, the chords of Steely Dan and Umphrey's McGee, the writings of William Vollman and Thomas Pynchon, the taste of red ale and his own gumbo. Having escaped after serving seven years of a lifetime sentence to confinement in hotel rooms, he currently resides in the wilds of Eau Claire County and contemplates the intersection of mixed SRID geometries in PostGIS.

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25 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    I wonder if Islamic banking will take off and if it does, the extent to which it will attract investment.

    I have heard that Islamic banking at touted as being less risky, and from wikipedia, it seems that this is indeed the case: Trading in opaque financial instruments is considered haraam. Of course, for that same reason it is probably going to be less dynamic and less likely to generate the outsized profits that attract capital investments. I don’t know how it will play out. But if Islamic banking takes off, we may see a genuine alternative to the current model. i.e. the success of Islamic banking depends on its ability to credibly promise and deliver a more secure financial system at perhaps near the same profit ratesReport

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      The troublesome part is defining what “Islamic” means in this context. The MB and Salafi were both enemies of the plutocrats and made much hay condemning the usurers. I used to have a friend, Bill Harrison, a brilliant historian. He used to construct Islamic financial instruments for investing in American real estate. He died of cancer some years back. I sorely miss him. He knew more about this than I ever will.

      Constructing this definition would be a fine task for the newly-established Egyptian Shura.Report

      • Avatar Mo says:

        I have quite a bit of family working out there in the banking industry and the Islamic finance (IF) market is going to be big in coming years. Something that’s been missed is that in the latter couple years of the Mubarak administration, mortgages were starting to grow as there was a mini-real estate boom prior to the revolution. This has died down post-revolution. What’s interesting is the banks that do the most IF and have the most accepted practices are UK-based banks. They’ve been doing quite a bit in Dubai and Qatar and are starting to get their sea legs in the area. It’s very serendipitous for Egypt that this trend started half a decade ago in the GCC, so that the industry doesn’t have to start completely from square one.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Just so. Egypt has a long tradition of a merchant class. They survived the horrid years of Nasser, Sadat and the rest of those statist swine, them and their state-owned industries and state power and state telephone, state this and state that.

          If Egypt’s new lawmakers sit down with the merchants and the qadi class to work out things to everyone’s benefit, impose reasonable regulations, evict corruption from the system, hell, that will take at least five years of hard work for the Islamists and the merchants and everyone will benefit from it.

          There’s an interesting character at large in Morsi’s entourage, fellow name of Essam el-Erian. He’s asking the Egyptian Jews to return from Israel. He spent years in Mubarak’s prisons and he’s serious about human rights reforms in Egypt. Though I don’t think many Egyptian Jews will take el-Erian up on his offer, a few might. Jews are awfully useful in a Muslim society, as they were in medieval Christian society: their religion doesn’t prohibit them from loaning money at interest.Report

  2. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Blaise – Why doesn’t Egypt have a central bank? Is it a cultural thing, or was there a time when not having one seemed to make sense?Report

  3. Avatar GordonHide says:

    “As for his Salafi allies, there’s an important role for them, eliminating corruption. They’re tailor made for that task.”–

    I think if corruption could be seriously curtailed by giving power to curtail it to a group thought to be largely uncorrupt then it wouldn’t be such a problem in the world. It looks as though the MB is heading towards government control of the media. A free press and a good measure of freedom of expression are two of the prerequisites for controlling corruption.
    Mind you lumbering the Salafis with the job might be a good way of sidelining them.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      It’s certainly a task the Salafis can manage. Morsi could harness the very considerable public rage at perceived government corruption to his own ends. It’s at least half the reason he was elected in the first place.

      Morsi’s clumsy power grabs were well-intentioned: he really doesn’t want to be a dictator. But in the matter of corruption, he could and should do more.Report

  4. Avatar Diablo says:

    I think you over simplify how the Muslim Brotherhood effectively replaced the Mubarak government prior to revolution. If you live in Upper Egypt, the government ignored you. If you were in lower Egypt and were poor, the government ignored you.

    If you were poor and hurt, you could not go to a normal hospital. You could not pay, you don’t get help. But the Muslim Brotherhood hospital would serve you. If you were robbed and went to the police, if you not paid the bribes, you get locked up. But the Muslim Brotherhood had real courts that were much more just.

    Like in Vietnam, the government was made replaceable. Better to pay to the Muslim Brotherhood than pay taxes as you get services. Muslim Brotherhood runs hospitals, schools, EVERYTHING is parts of Egypt even when they were banned party. You had to turn to the Brotherhood or else you had nothing.

    Also…all of Mexico problems are due to Americans and their stupid drug policy. I laugh when Americans cry and moan about Mexicans. Funny…I think you guys screw us over much much more.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      Ecch, the parallels between Mexico and Egypt are good, all round. Most of the people earning any money are outside the country. The government was asymptotically corrupt and only relevant in terms of how much danger it posed to anyone at a given point in time. The only working power in the country was the military, and that only on the basis of foreign money. Both countries are completely broken in every measurable respect.

      MB is a bunch of oldsters, with old timey solutions. They’re everyone’s simplistic grandfather for whom Islam is the answer to every problem.

      Speaking of simplistic, take your anti-American rantiferousness elsewhere. The USA, for all its problems, has a working democracy. Egypt doesn’t. It’s already started to go off the rails. The MB won’t be able to cope with the devaluation of the EGP. They were always the Party of Handouts. When the handouts stop, ordinary Egyptians will turn on them. Bet the farm on that.Report

      • Avatar Diablo says:

        I love America. I have lived and worked here for many years. I served six years in the military, US Navy. But to say that Mexico’s problems are all the fault of Mexico and US has not caused at least some is not right to me. America is bleeding Mexico dry with violence and murdered to fund the US War on Some Drugs. America exploits Mexico labor, changes laws to force migrant workers to break law, and then blames Mexico for the problems. Americans act like illegals are so evil but will not pay Americans money to do the job. It makes me confused.

        Also, Mexico expats contribute a substantial amount to the total Mexico GDP, but that is still only 2.1% of total. There are many ways that the Mexico economy is healthy more than US. Unemployment is much better in Mexico. Manufacturing is expanding. I have done more jobs in Mexico (I do drive systems for steel mills and port facilities) in the last two years than in USA. If not for US demanding Billions of Dollars worth of drugs every year, Mexico would have little violence and be doing even better.

        The way you describe the Muslim Brotherhood is too simple. I have worked in Egypt prior to the fall of the Mubarak government. Especially in Upper Nile region, the Muslim Brotherhood was the local government. MB is more than just old people handing out free stuff. If they are what you say that are, Mubarak would have crushed them very easy.

        You say I hate the US. I don’t think I do. But I think you being in US makes you think you know all about different countries. Most of what the US media says about the world is very not true or wrong. Sorry, long night and I am struggling to talk right. Good fun talking to you. Thanks.Report

        • Avatar DRS says:

          +1,000, Diablo. Means I agree with you 1,000 times.

          You have to be careful with Americans, though. They can get very touchy when you criticise their country in a way that they don’t approve of. Blaise is actually a great guy and I’m sorry he took the tone he did with you above. Personally I think he’s way too pessimistic about Egypt, which is going to last for a lot longer than any of us will be alive. The rest of the world does not run by Western attention spans. We should be looking for a long-term – a very long-term – standard for judging the strength of emerging democracies. Egyptians won the right to have their efforts taken seriously.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          I’ve driven through Mexico, four times, from end to end, two of those times in old school buses, full to the brim with goods for resale, with a young wife and then two little babies, hot and sweaty and crying. I’d sell the bus and the tires and the car parts at a profit,, live in Guatemala for a few months, then fly back again, over and over. Thus I built my restaurant.

          I know southern Mexico very well, especially Chiapas and the Yucatan, a lawless place. The drug smugglers have completely corrupted the border guards. Mexico has its own very substantial drug problem. To make excuses for Mexico, saying it’s American demand which drives the trouble, is to miss the point entirely. Mexico’s a weak state and suffers from terrible corruption: the drug lords damned near own the northern Mexican states. The vast majority of the cash flowing into Mexico does so illegally: the drug lords pump billions into the Mexican economy every month. Well, more-illegally than los indocumentados al norte who ship their money south by Western Union, and are as you say, about two percent of the Mexican economy.

          Egypt’s expats provide more income than revenues from the Suez Canal.

          MB, as I have said, created a network of zakat subsidies. It wouldn’t surprise me that MB ran the upper Nile region. But they weren’t the legitimate government: they operated in the vacuum created by Mubarak’s ineffective government. Mubarak tolerated them if they kept their mouths closed but he filled his prisons with them when they didn’t. Every MB leader in government today spent time in his prisons. They are what I say they are: very good at handing out tanks of propane and cooking oil. They’re completely out of their depth running the country.

          Mubarak crushed the MB with surprising ease: the Salafis were a harder nut to crack: they had financial support from KSA.

          I grow increasingly bored with the routine scolding of the United States by nations which can’t manage their own affairs. Mexico could be at least as wealthy as the south-western USA. It isn’t because it’s poorly-run. Nobody wants to invest in Mexican credit markets because everyone’s afraid the government will do as it’s done so many times before: expropriate and nationalise any viable industry. Mexico won’t effectively regulate its banks. Creditors have no rights. Telecommunications infrastructure improvements are nil: Carlos Slim and Telmex are a huge block to progress. Nobody seems to know what to do about corporate regulation: the courts are corrupt and nobody incorporates if they don’t have to, leading to massive cheating on tax collections. The electric grid in Mexico is horrible: everyone who needs reliable power generates their own. The educational system is broken. China’s eating Mexico’s lunch.

          I know what happens to countries which can’t manage their own affairs. Egypt is headed for a huge currency crisis, a crisis Mexico has seen before. The only question remains: who will have enough faith in Egypt to stop them sliding into the abyss. In Mexico’s case, it was the USA who bailed them out. IMF might be able to do something to stabilise Egypt, but not while they’re still trying to figure out who runs what.Report

          • Avatar DRS says:

            I grow increasingly bored with the routine scolding of the United States by nations which can’t manage their own affairs.

            Well, people in other nations are allowed to have opinions too and if they post them on this blog in a non-ranting manner (which Diablo did), then I don’t see why anyone should take umbrage over it. Chill, dude.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              I don’t make excuses for my own country. I don’t appreciate people running it down, either. I’ve been hit up for mordidas by Mexican border agents too many times to have any fond recuerdos for that country. Mexico is so busted up, my feelings for that country vary between pity and downright contempt. Sorry, DRS, that’s reality. That country needs to grow some juevos, y pronto. They need to enforce the rule of law in that benighted land.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “Also…all of Mexico problems are due to Americans and their stupid drug policy”

      Is La Negación a river in Mexico?Report

  5. Avatar Glyph says:

    “All” is no doubt overstating the case somewhat; but US drug policy has been an unmitigated disaster for Mexico in general.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Ugh, that was supposed to be to Kolohe.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “US drug policy has been an unmitigated disaster for Mexico in general.”

      That is quite a different statement with quite a different truth value. (=1)Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Yeah, I figured you knew that 🙂

        My point was, US drug policy and its effects on his country are certainly bad enough that Diablo might be forgiven just a little bit of hyperbole, esp. if English isn’t his first language; he may have meant his indictment to come across as slightly more specific and less-sweeping than it did. If I were Mexican I’d be right P.O.’d.

        That Mexico still has/had its own problems with corruption etc., aside from/prior to the US WOD, is probably pretty self-evident to all.Report

        • Avatar Diablo says:

          I pick wrong word. Sorry.

          For good and bad, Mexico and its history are part of US and the same for Mexico. Cannot cut the two.

          Mexico was very corrupt under Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) but things worked. You paid the right bribes, you got services and things worked out. Everything ran up in triangle, with political bosses at the top. Like Chicago? A friend from Chicago says it is corrupt but trains run on time. Like that.

          Now, you pay bribes, you may pay the wrong person. Cartels own different police units, army units, and politicians. You go to the wrong one, you get killed. Civilians get killed like by terrorist in Afghanistan as they don’t shoot back. It is not weird for two police units to shoot each other over orders from their drug bosses.

          It is so bad, the Navy was brought in because the Army units were bought off.

          It is very confusing as no one knows who owns who. Cartels have fiefdoms (calender word from desk!). I wonder if the Cartels would get angry if US legalized drugs.Report