Locust Time in Egypt *Exclusive
By EWI BLOG | by Rachel Ehrenfeld
Thursday, March 14th, 2013 @ 11:55PM
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood should adopt the locust as the national symbol. Like the locust, the Muslim Brotherhood eats up everything, devastates the land’s economy, turning sprouts of reform into scorching oppression.
As each day passes, the MB resembles more and more a plague of locusts swarming the country. As the disorder and tenuousness of the Egyptians’ existence gets worse and worse, the notion that “once in power” the Muslim Bothers will chose pragmatism over radicalism is fast eroding.
During months of on-again,off- again negotiations with the IMF, Egypt has turned down a $4.8 billion loan several times for different reasons, including pending approval by shari’a experts. On Sunday, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ashraf El-Araby said that Egypt does not need a bridge loan.
Yesterday Egypt has refused even an emergency IMF bridge loan of $750 million dollars, which the IMF offered while negotiating the larger loan package. Minister of Finance Al-Morsi Hegazy claimed in a press conference on Tuesday that since Egypt has initiated some economic reforms, “It is our right as a nation, and as a member nation of the IMF, to receive 300% of our quota, or $4.8bn.”
An anonymous diplomat quoted by the Financial Times has noted that the interim offer is clearly the result of Egypt’s failure to show significant reform in a modified economic program document submitted to the IMF in February. The diplomat said:
“This won’t work. It shows a profound misunderstanding of how the IMF works. The IMF board has a duty to ensure that [a loan] will be repaid, this won’t happen through this flaky programme [presented by Cairo].”
If this is correct, then the Muslim Brotherhood government is proceeding in a manner that will not get it the coveted and absolutely necessary $4.8 IMF bailout loan. This, in the face of urgent balance of payment support problems that have loomed in recent weeks. Two-thirds of Egypt’s foreign reserves are depleted, standing at $13.5bn, “slightly less than the critical level of three months’ import cover.” However, the same figure has been quoted last summer….
Some commentators’ suggestions that Muhammad Morsi et al. are attempting to bully the IMF, make sense. Secretary of State John Kerry’s gift of $250 million in U.S. aid, delivered during his recent visit to Cairo, and additional $250 million for “climate projects” from the World Bank, serve as indicators that most of Moris’s Brotherhood needs will eventually be met.
Kerry’s gift seems to contradict the Obama administration’s public stand that Egypt would get $1 billion in aid on the condition that it meets the requirements of the IMF for the $4.8 billion. Morsi, when accepting Kerry’s gift, promised to make the IMF happy, then turned down their bridge loan a few days later.
Whatever the U.S. thinks it’s doing at this juncture, its support for the Morsi government will be of no real consequence. Unable to pay for imported necessities, food and fuel, Egypt will sink into a complete chaos. Former Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa said not long ago, Egypt needs $100 billion to recover and $12 billion of that is wanted immediately. Others estimate that the country will need at least $22 billion in 2013 in order to keep its people fed. And that’s $22 billion in foreign assistance.
In the meantime, Morsi’s government has yet to bring order to the streets. An overwhelming percentage of the regular police forces in the country are on strike, resentful of having to protect the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership as if they were their private security service. Policemen are also angry because the current laws do not protect them when they carry out their duties.
While daily violent demonstrations continue, the Public Prosecutor has encouraged the people to take the law into their hands, reminding them that a law long on the books allows them the right of make citizens’ arrest. Media protests led to increased Brotherhood assault on the Egyptian media.
Ever since the Muslim Brotherhood’s took over, many wondered when the Egyptian military will intervene. There has been news that rioters in Port Said are calling for military intervention, but rumors are that General Sissi, Morsi’s Defense Minister, thinks the time is not ripe yet.
As expert on Palestinian and Islamic politics, institutions and military strategies Hillel Frisch observed, the army is still unwilling to take on the Brotherhood as the majority of its soldiers support it. Frisch also believes that, because the U.S. is unlikely to support a military coup, the army is loath to give up U.S. assistance of $1.3 billion annualy, which accounts for fifth of the Egyptian military’s budget.
Seemingly oblivious to the situation on the ground, the Obama administration is accelerating the delivery of 20 F-16s and 100 Abrams tanks to Egypt,
On February 5, during a ceremony celebrating the delivery of four F-16s, then U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, “urged his Egyptian counterpart, Abdul Fatah Sissi, not to use the U.S.-financed Egyptian military against protesters.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sees no particular threat to U.S. interests, or Israel, emanating from Muslim-Brotherhood-ruled Egypt. Clapper’s annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, delivered to the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence on March 12, attributed the wide protests in Egypt to Morsi’s “decree in November 2012 that temporarily increased his authorities at the expense of the judiciary.” (emphasis added)
How temporary? “A key element of Mursi’s ability to build support will be improving living standards and the economy; GDP growth fell to 1.5 percent in 2012 from just over 5 percent in 2010, and unemployment was roughly 12.6 percent in mid-2012.”
If Morsi’s Locust-economic policies fail to feed his people, he’ll have the American F-16 planes and tanks to hush the restive crowds.
FOOD PRICE RISES PUT RESTIVE EGYPT ON EDGE