It was bound to happen. People will always stand to be victorious and support the right side of the equation. No one can ignore the fact that we have been through very difficult times that have serious consequences. But we were not alone in this crisis because the whole world, the rich and the poor, have been through the most difficult phase of this century that targeted the most valuable, which is the peoples’ health.
When countries had to enforce a complete, or even partial, lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19, the impact was horrendous, both economically and financially. The most powerful and rich countries currently suffer from budget deficits. They have postponed major projects, altered their economic plans, taxed their citizens heavily, and enforced laws that oblige businessmen to shoulder part of the burden.
In the US, the GDP dropped from $20 trillion to less than $16 trillion. Unemployment doubled, affecting 50 million Americans. Companies either went broke or laid off a number of its employees to cope with the crisis.
There are seven million infected Americans, and a bigger number is expected to be ill with the virus. Even countries that managed to control the spread of the virus, like China, Japan, Korea and Germany, could not evade the negative economic impact of the virus because of the economic slowdown that hit other consuming economies. The majority of countries are either suffering an economic downturn or the hefty burden of loans.
Anger was seen from the US, Japan, China, the EU and Korea, to the poorest and most vulnerable states worldwide, and scenes of the most violent demonstrations took place in South America. The virus has effectively put the world economy into a standstill. Meanwhile, the expenses of health services ate up a great portion of government budgets.
When economic downturn is coupled with high spending, as was the case during the lockdown, political and social unrest are expected.
In Egypt, the government took several measures to ensure concerted efforts in dealing with the crisis on the social, economic and health levels. Panic on the part of the government would have led to an economic catastrophe, as has been the case in other countries that were rigged by rumours.
The government, under the leadership of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, rapidly formed a crisis management committee to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. The government managed to strike a balance between the need to battle against the virus and mitigate its economic impact due to the lockdown.
The crisis management team managed, in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and scientists from around the world, to avoid the state of panic. They worked on curbing the negative impact of the virus on people's health, made medication available, and helped people stay safe through awareness campaigns.
On the economic level, several sectors came to a standstill, especially the services sector, and to some extent the production sector. Meanwhile, remittances dropped, as Egyptian expats were either brought back home because they had lost their jobs or became infected.
Tourism was hard hit, as were airlines. But Egypt was not alone. The government, the Armed Forces, and medical teams worked side by side to help the people overcome the pandemic crisis.
Thus Egyptians pursued a relatively calm life, but the government was caught between a rock and a hard place. At the time when Ethiopia was trying to deprive Egypt of Nile water, threatening Egyptians' supply of water and food, Egypt had to find a way to support the economy to avoid the negative impact of the lockdown.
The government had to ignore the traditional norms of raising prices of food and medication. Raising taxes on industrialists was not also an option because they might lay off workers or close down their companies. The government stirred through the crisis carefully as it was running out of good options.
However, a "wicked" group manipulated the government's move against building violations into a campaign of foul play that depicted the government as if it were destroying the entire country. The group, along with its funders and supporters, called on Egyptians to go out on the streets to unseat the government.
However, despite the difficult times and the harsh repercussions of the pandemic, Egyptians understood the "wicked" conspiracy to dismantle the country and realised they are on the right path to development and they will overcome the difficulties to attain prosperity.
*Alaa Thabet is the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram daily