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After the revolution - Starvation and regret become commonplace in Egypt

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 6th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

When Egypt, both the Arab world and Africa's most populous nation rose up to depose President Hosni Mubarak two years ago, hopes ran high that a new regime would usher in a new era of economic prosperity. Nothing could be further from the truth, as the Egyptian economy has stagnated, the country's currency lost much of its value and inflation bumped up food prices.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Protesters during the much vaunted Arab spring had adopted the slogan: "Bread, freedom and social justice!" After current Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi came to power in June of last year, hopes ran high for economic and political reform. Many Egyptians at that time thought their lot would improve.

Egypt today is a Land of Want. While the government currently subsidizes basic types of bread, other staples are becoming more expensive. Kidney bean prices grew by nearly 24 percent in the year to March; onions were up 12 percent and tomatoes 10.1 percent.

Dr. Nadia Belhaj Hassine, of the International Economic Research Center blames most of Egypt's woes on the "huge problem of inexperienced government." The overall global downturn, regional turmoil and Islamist rhetoric has frightened away international investors.

"They are not aware of what has been done in the past and what should be done," she said. "They don't have any vision about what kind of economic reforms to undertake in the short and long term and how to improve the investment environment."

Some pin hopes on a $4.8-billion International Monetary Fund loan will help stabilize the economy, but the deal has not been signed. Foreign reserves, which were $36 billion in 2011, now stand at $13.5 billion, just enough for three months of such crucial imports as wheat and gas.

The Egyptian pound in the meantime has lost 13 percent of its value against the dollar in the past year, making essentials more expensive, hitting families particularly hard.

Around a quarter of the Egyptian population lives below the poverty line. Another 20 percent hover just above it. There are also indications that there are malnutrition rates of around 30 percent are also on the increase, he said.

Poverty and malnutrition has visible and long-term effects, Gian Pietro Bordignon, World Food Program country director says.

"Without essential nutrients, minerals, vitamins, children cannot grow their brain potential. They have a lower academic performance," he said. "Malnutrition is not only a personal problem of human suffering but impacts the nation as a whole."


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