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Egyptians plan popular campaign to drop Egypt’s debts

'With the slogan "Keep your eyes open, the debt comes out your pockets,' the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debts is hoping Egyptians can be heard in economic decisions

Ahram Online, Saturday 29 Oct 2011
25 th Jan Revolution
Egyptians would call on their respective governments to drop the debts accumulated by Mubarak’s regime. Photo: Reuters
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31 October marks the global day for the cancellation of Egypt's debt, to be marked in Cairo and a number of other cities around the world.

Independent activists and a number of civil society organisations will be organising various actions in London, Berlin, Paris and Cairo in parallel, calling on their respective governments to drop the debt accumulated by the Mubarak regime.

The dictator’s regime resorted to external borrowing to finance its budget deficits and political projects. But the Egyptian people never had a say in decisions regarding external loans nor spending priorities.

If not dropped, the accumulated debt will remain a burden on the Egyptian people for generations.

Members of the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt are mainly focused on achieving social justice in Egypt. According to the founding statement of the campaign, "The economic policies that were applied by the ousted Mubarak regime have left us with enormous internal and external debts.

"The regime borrowed extensively in order to pay off its debt premiums and interest. Real solutions would have entailed searching for alternative mechanisms to finance government expenditure – such as income and wealth taxes – towards the goal of creating a more just economy.

"To avoid the perpetuation of the current economic regime, which resorts to internal and external borrowing as the first and easiest strategy to address the complex questions of economic planning, the campaign will be starting a popular movement to rally all those concerned with pressuring for the cancellation of Egypt’s debts both domestically and internationally in creditor countries and by creditor institutions."

The campaign also rejects the shackling of Egypt to debt conditionalities.

Philip Rizk, a film-maker, explained his reasons for joining the campaign: “There is a lot of discussion about social justice in Egyptian society. I believe this campaign is good way to speak directly about the economy in Egypt and to change economics from a realm restricted to 'experts' to a subject that every Egyptian can discuss."

Rizk has released a number of short films about the debt problem in Egypt and why it constitutes a burden that Egyptians should refuse to carry. 

"I am not a specialist in economics, but I believe that individuals should be involved in how the country is run,” says Wael Khalil, an activist and blogger and member of the campaign.

The Egyptian government is spending LE106 billion ($18 billion) this year on total internal and external debt services. This exceeds annual amounts allocated for education, health and all other public investments.

In aggregate, the taxpayer pays 40 piasters for each Egyptian pound in payment of debt services. “Internal and external debt service payments are one the largest budget expenditures, therefore depriving vast groups of Egyptians from their basic right to a dignified life,” explains Wael Gamal, an economic journalist and member of the campaign.

On 31 October, the global day for dropping Egypt's debts, “Jubilee Debt Campaign UK,” an organisation fighting for the cancellation of Third World debts, is organising in coordination with Egyptian campaign members based in London a meeting with British Members of Parliament to deliver petitions demanding that Egyptian debts be dropped.

The meeting will be followed by a demonstration at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. Dina Makram-Ebeid, a member of the campaign and a PhD researcher at the London School of Economics, said “We have been coordinating this event for more than two months, after meeting in Egypt and London with some of our Egyptian colleagues living in England.”

On the same evening of 31 October, the campaign will hold a conference at the Journalists' Syndicate in Cairo under the title: “The impact of external debts on Egyptians”. The panelists for the conference will include economist Ahmed El-Naggar, Fathi El-Chamkhy from the Tunisian Debt Audit Campaign, economic journalist Wael Gamal, as well as Khaled Ali, director of the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights.

Workers, popular committee members, activists and public figures supporting the campaign will all be present. The conference will mark the launch of the campaign in Egypt and will include an open call for new members to join the campaign.

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