Year after year, the IMF praised Mubarak’s ‘progress’. Signing up to its $3bn loan now hardly seems a break with the past
News that the Egyptian interim government has struck a deal with the IMF through which the fund will hand Egypt a $3bn loan has met with differing reactions. It was greeted with relief by some, as proof of the country’s positive economic prospects in the medium and long term, and a rebuttal to those scaremongers who have been loudly warning that Egypt is on the verge of bankruptcy because of the revolution and of the continuing protests and street activities.
But many people, myself included, were unhappy with this news and the impact such a loan will have on deepening the country’s debt and mounting debt servicing burden.
And there’s a more disturbing detail – this is the IMF for God’s sake. I recall repeatedly demonstrating over the past 10 years against the Hosni Mubarak regime and chanting against the “Fund” and the “Bank”, meaning the IMF and the World Bank. “We will not be governed by the Bank, we will not be governed by imperialism”, we chanted, “and here are the terms of the Bank: poverty, hunger and rising prices.”
The IMF and the World Bank have for years been pushing the neoliberal measures implemented by Mubarak and his governments, piling praise on him for his courage and achievements.
Year after year, the international experts would commend the Egyptian economic “progress” and “performance” while the majority of Egyptians watched as their lives deteriorated and their living conditions worsened. A survey by the International Republican Institute found that 60% of the population felt their living standards had fallen over the previous year, and that this was one of the key reasons for participation in the 25 January revolution.
Year after year, we watched how the rich and powerful got richer and even more powerful. Year after year, we waited in vain for the successive economic growth to trickle down to the poor and working masses. None was forthcoming.
And while the IMF and similar international institutions called on Egypt to eliminate “waste and efficiencies” such as social measures or food subsidies, they maintained a polite silence on the outrageous corruption perpetrated by the country’s ruler, his family and their friends and cronies. Mubarak’s last finance minister, Youssef Boutros-Ghali, a graduate of the IMF who served as chair of its policy advisory committee, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for corruption related to improper use of cars impounded by Egypt’s customs service. Boutros-Ghali was sentenced in absentia as he was one of the few clever officials that left the country as soon as the protest that led to the bringing down of Mubarak’s regime started in January.
I believe that this country’s future lies not with the same highly paid, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats of the IMF, nor with their sacred indicators of budget deficits and market economics. Our future lies with a new home-grown economics that caters for the majority of Egyptians, the schools where their children are educated, the hospitals where they receive healthcare, and the jobs that guarantee them decent and honourable living.
Our revolution, before it called for bringing down Mubarak, has called for “social justice and human dignity” and we will not stop until that is achieved.