macrohistory & world report

Arab Republic of Egypt

Map of Egypt

Egypt (capital Cairo) and neighboring states

World Factbook as of November 2014: " After unrest erupted in January 2011, the Egyptian Government backtracked on economic reforms, drastically increasing social spending to address public dissatisfaction, but political uncertainty at the same time caused economic growth to slow significantly, reducing the government's revenues. Tourism, manufacturing, and construction were among the hardest hit sectors of the Egyptian economy, pushing up unemployment levels, and economic growth remains slow amid political uncertainty, government transitions, unrest, and cycles of violence. Cairo since 2011 has drawn down foreign exchange reserves and depended on foreign assistance, particularly from Gulf countries, to finance imports and energy products and prevent further devaluation of the Egyptian pound, fearing higher inflation from a weaker currency."

Egypt for 2010 has the typically high birth rate and poor health figures of a Muslim country and the usual low revenue as a percentage of GDP that goes with a bad corruption-index rating.

Economic growth rate
2011: 1,2%
2010: 5.1%

Labor force in agriculture
2001: 32%

Unemployment rate
2011: 12.2%
2010: 9%

Public debt as percentage of GDP
2011: 85.7%
2010: 81.4%

Exports in cash value more than double imports – an unfavorable balance

Exports partners
2010: US 7.6%, Italy 7.3%, India 6.1%, Spain 5.4%, Saudi Arabia 5.4%, France 4.7%, Libya 4%

Exports commodities
crude oil and petroleum products, cotton, textiles, metal products, chemicals, processed food

Income Distribution – GINI index
Ranks 92nd among 140 countries (lower rank number is less equal). Less equal than Britain, which ranks 94th, and more equal that the US, which ranks 45th.

Health expenditures
2009: 6.4%

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
2005: 3.4%


Living in an urban area
2010: 43.4%

Ethnic groups
2006 census: Egyptian 99.6%, other 0.4%

Muslim (mostly Sunni) 90%, Coptic 9%, other Christian 1%

Net migration rate
2012: Net loss of 0.2 persons per 1,000 population per year.

Muslim (mostly Sunni) 94 percent. Coptic Christian 6 percent.

Literacy – World Factbook
2005: males 83%, females 59.4%


North Africa. 2,450 kilometers of coastline. Capital: Cairo.


The legal system is based on English common law, Islamic law and Napoleonic codes.

Bicameral legislative system consists of the Advisory Council or Majlis al-Shura (Shura Council) that traditionally functions mostly in a consultative role (270 seats with 180 members elected by popular vote and 90 appointed by the president, and they serve six-year terms). The People's Assembly has 508 seats, with 498 members elected by popular vote, 64 seats reserved for women, and 10 members appointed by the president; with members serving five-year terms.

Recent History

According to a study done by Shibley Telhami with Zogby International, in October 2005, no more than 2 percent support Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, and most people in the region believe that Muslim clerics are not participating enough in politics.

According to the BBC: "Although Egypt has changed its constitution to allow the opposition to contest presidential polls, potential candidates must meet strict criteria for participation. A ban remains on religious political parties." 

2006: Cairo University is ranked 28th among African universities, according to Shibley Telhami in the Washington Post.

January 27, 2011: In Egypt's cities people are in the streets rebelling against the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. The cities are packed with economically frustrated people. Richard Engel of MSNBC News tells Chris Mathews that an apartment he rented a few years ago (maybe four years) for $100 now rents for more than four times that much. Young men can't afford to get married. Many in the cities are unemployed, including the young who are educated, while they see those with great wealth getting more wealthy and building grand homes.

In the streets with the young men are young women and the middle-aged, some with little potbellies. On television it looks like a middle class revolt rather than a revolt by the wretched and starving masses.

The economy suits the rich more than common people, and there are few mechanisms available for social security. Egypt is not the kind of welfare state that exists in Western Europe, Japan or the United States. The Encyclopedia of Nations writes:

The government instituted a social security program in the early 1960s to provide pensions, through forced savings, for employees. Coverage also included unemployment, disability, and death benefits. In 1990 less than half of the work force participated in the program. Self-employed individuals and most private sector workers (including domestics, farm workers, and casual laborers) were not covered by the program. The overwhelming majority of participants were civil servants and employees of government enterprises. Workers in private factories could only participate in social security if their employers chose to make regular contributions to the program.

Perhaps it can be said that Egypt is still suffering from a rapidly expanding population that is pressing hard on limited agricultural resources.

Feb 1, 2011: In Slate, the online magazine, Christopher Hitchens warns against "too glibly selecting the ostensible crucial" grievance among Egyptians. Poverty, unemployment, dictatorship, repression he says are commonplace and adds: "I think that the factor of indignity and shame... makes a more satisfactory initial explanation." In my opinion, indignity and shame are part of the mix but should not be isolated as crucial.

Hitchens writes of various supreme leaders making the mistake of letting his extended family go on shopping sprees; publicly spoiling a son as if the public "can't wait for him, too, to be proclaimed from the balcony;" and the supreme leader displaying his personal photograph all over the landscape. Hitchens advises a supreme leader not to "claim more than, say, 75 percent of the vote in any 'election' you put on. And don't try to shut down social media: It will instantly alert even the most somnolent citizen to the fact that you are losing, or have lost, your grip." He adds:

People do not like to be treated like fools, or backward infants, or extras in some parade. There is a natural and inborn resistance to such tutelage, for the simple-enough reasons that young people want to be regarded as adults, and parents can't bear to be humiliated in front of their children.


Feb 8, 2011: Dr. Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland describes Egypt's military as the "anchor" of the Mubarak regime. "It's always been that way since 1952, with the overthrow of the monarchy but it's even become more so in the past two weeks." The military's top ranking officers have been described as hand picked by Mubarak and beholden to Mubarak.

Vice President Suleiman, who rose through the military, has been criticized in the US media for having said that the Egyptian people are not ready for democracy. This has been interpreted as the military not willing to give up its power.

Feb12, 2011: The Egyptian people have delighted and impressed the world by forcing Hosni Mubarak to resign – yesterday, the 11th of Februrary.

In the New York Times, Michael Slackman describes Mubarak as having been "a brittle leader... who took half-steps at economic liberalization.., gave his police force the power to arrest without charge and allowed only the veneer of democracy to take hold."

About Mubarak's speech on the 10th, writes Slackman, Mubarak's "words served only to demonstrate how out of touch he had become. Slackman writes:

During his tenure, Egypt's population doubled, to more than 80 million. Life grew harder as the social contract between the state and citizens broke down. Satellite television and the Internet meant the state could no longer control what people knew, and so its narrative was often ignored or even mocked.

...Where once the rich, poor and middle class lived in the same neighborhoods, the wealthy later retreated to walled compounds of grass yards and swimming pools, while Mr. Mubarak's government struggled even to keep the streets clean of trash.

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