News / Economy

Egypt's Unrest Hurts Economy

A HSBC bank branch remains damaged on the Arcadia shopping center, that was looted, damaged and set on fire by people in Cairo, Egypt, January 30, 2011.
A HSBC bank branch remains damaged on the Arcadia shopping center, that was looted, damaged and set on fire by people in Cairo, Egypt, January 30, 2011.

With an inflation rate near 13 percent and about 20 percent of Egypt's population living at or below the poverty level,  finding even the most basic necessities has become a daily struggle for many Egyptians. It is a situation many analysts say is bound to get worse the longer the protests continue.

"We've been standing in line for five hours just to get some bread; people are fighting over it. They are not happy with Mubarak. Look what they have gotten us into," said one man/

Although some blame the protests for the food shortages, even more blame President Hosni Mubarak's policies for the decline of Egypt's middle class.  

Elliott Abrams, a foreign policy analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, says the crisis has been years in the making. "People are asking for two things fundamentally.  They're asking for freedom and they are asking for bread.  Egypt has had a lot of economic growth, a lot of stock market rise, a lot of foreign direct investment.  But, it is not trickling down.  The rich are getting a lot richer; the poor are not getting richer," he said.

Despite economic reforms that have doubled Egypt's Gross Domestic Product since 2004, nearly 40 percent of Egypt's population gets by on less than $2 a day.  

"It used to be that college graduates, they get a sort of basic salary from the government and then they go out and get a second job to make ends meet. Today, people who are graduating in the past three years have a terrible problem getting enough money for housing, for a decent living. This economic discontent is behind the political discontent that is now rocking Egypt," said David Ottaway, the Washington Post's former Cairo Bureau Chief.

The unrest also threatens one of Egypt's most important sources of income - tourism, which supports one in every eight jobs. Thousands of tourists have cancelled visits and airlines say the busiest flights are outbound - as many more try to flee the country.

But at one Cairo's busiest bazaars, Canadian tourist Gary Lion says for now, at least, the protests seem a world away. "Of course we are not really used to what it should look like. This is still reasonably busy but we found the people here very warm and friendly, helpful and we really haven't encountered any problems," he said.

Outside the tourist bubble, Egypt's stock market and banks remained closed on Monday.  Analysts say the government's shutdown of the Internet continues to disrupt commerce - hurting thousands of companies that use the Internet to buy and sell goods.

Despite the tumultuous events that have rocked the country, Egypt's Suez Canal, a key passage for nearly 10 percent of the world's oil and other commodities, remains open.

But some are starting to question whether the canal will continue to remain isolated from the unrest.

NEW: Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.