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First ‎Egypt Conference casts light on financial corruption

In its opening session, the First Egypt Conference highlighted corruption and the poverty most Egyptians have suffered during 30 years of Hosni Mubarak's rule

Salma Shukrallah, Saturday 7 May 2011
The First ‎Conference of Egypt.
(Photo: Bassam El-Zoghbi)
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The programme of Egypt's first post-revolution conference revolved around four main themes, of which the second focused on the country's economic future, with many participants citing persistent illicit profiteering and abuse of power by ‎former regime figures. ‎

While the main debates in the panel discussing Egypt's future constitution focused on the different positions regarding gender and religious equality, while briefly talking of class and social makeup, the second panel mainly focused on economic gaps and the country's poor.

Youth representative speaches focused on the current transitional government's reluctance to respond to any of the revolution's social and economic demands, and even implied that it creates laws to protect and reestablish economic inequality.

Hassan Mostafa, Delta representative of the Youth Coalition, said "people revolted not to change politicians but for social equality. The former regime has systematically destroyed the Egyptian economy through privatisation policies and by institutionalising corruption."

"We need to set a minimum and maximum wage," Mostafa added.

Another Youth Coalition figure, Khaled Al-Saied, added: "Subsidies set for exports exceeded all others, including that set for health," highlighting the problems of the Mubarak regime's economic policies. 

On the other hand, economy expert Abdel Khalek Farouk talked of the former regime's financial corruption. He said: “The Mubarak family used [tycoon] Hussein ‎Salem as a cloak to pave the way for illegal transactions and activities. When Mubarak started to ‎rule Egypt the country had only LE4 billion in debt. By the time he was ousted that ‎debt soared to LE888 billion.”‎

Al-Saied also implied that the current government was not taking steps towards greater equality but that it actually protected the economic structure as was, expressing his anger at new legislation criminalising sit-ins and strikes.

“Prime ‎Minister Essam Sharaf has enacted a law penalising the poor for demanding their rights by ‎striking,” he said. ‎

When Minister of Local Development Mohsen El-Nomani spoke earlier at the outset of the conference, attendees started shouting slogans against the interim's government law criminalising protests and strikes. They chanted "Strikes are legitimate against poverty and hunger!"

Mubarak and his clique were heavily blamed for the deteriorated economic state of Egypt. ‎They are accused of accumulating illegal profits over many years, which is said to have taken ‎a toll on the country’s financial muscle.‎

Mubarak’s 30-year rule was ended 11 February after millions protested against him ‎across ‎Egypt for 18 days of a full-scale uprising. The main slogans of the revolution were "dignity", "freedom" and "social justice". Mubarak is now remanded in custody along ‎with numerous former ministers and governmental officials.‎

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