Along with its politics, Egypt’s economy has lurched ever closer to ruin, yet successive governments have blithely ignored the looming danger.
The current one, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, is no exception. Nine months into office, President Muhammad Morsi has yet to devise an economic plan plausible enough to convince the IMF, whose proffered $4.8 billion standby agreement and stamp of approval could unlock as much as $15 billion in multilateral aid, mostly on generous terms, and slash borrowing costs overall. (...)
To be fair to Mr Morsi’s government, it has not been entirely oblivious of the impending crunch. It has raised a few customs duties and minor taxes, and mooted plans to ration some subsidised goods, perhaps as soon as June. Where it has really fallen short, however, is in meeting the request, politely framed in a statement from the IMF after one delegation’s visit to Cairo, for Mr Morsi to build “broad support” for wider-reaching economic reform.
Not only has his government failed to propose a coherent plan for reform or to prepare the public for it, Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood have tried to muscle aside critics, using much the same methods as did Hosni Mubarak, the dictator overthrown in 2011 after 30 years in power. But Egyptians are no longer so easily cowed, so the result has been political paralysis accompanied by rising violence. Mr Morsi has shown growing frustration with the limits to his power, leading opponents to suspect he may try even harsher tactics to thwart them. Many Egyptians now fear that a judgment day is indeed nearing.