REPORT FROM CAIRO: Egyptian President el-Sisi calls for early elections as economy grows 4%, tourism surges, unemployment plunges
But challenges remain, including raging inflation
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by Joel C. Rosenberg | October 3, 2023
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi attends opening of ‘New Global Financing Pact’ summit in Paris, France, June 22, 2023. (Photo: Ammar Abd Rabbo/ABACAPRESS.COM)
CAIRO, EGYPT — For the first time since the COVID shutdowns, I’ve come back to Egypt this week to see how the largest country in the Arab world is doing.
And I have to say I’m very encouraged by what President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and his team are accomplishing.
Economic growth in Egypt has surged from near zero during the pandemic of 2020 and 2021 to 4.1%.
Next year, it’s expected to be close to 5%.
By contrast, Israel is only growing 2.9% this year.
And Israel is only expected to grow 3.3% next year.
Unemployment in Egypt has plunged since President el-Sisi came to power a decade ago.
In 2013 — at the height of the Muslim Brotherhood’s reign of terror — unemployment stood at 13.4%.
Today, it’s down to 7%.
Traffic and revenue from the New Suez Canal has surged to record levels.
And after a near total wipeout of the tourism industry during the COVID years, foreign visitors are once again surging back into the country.
In fact, the number of tourists to Egypt is up a whopping 46% this year and is expected to hit a record high.
I’ll report more on that in my next dispatch from Cairo.
Not surprisingly then, President el-Sisi this week called for early elections to be held from December 10 to 12 rather than next year as anticipated.
Yesterday — after a decade in power — he announced that he is running for re-election.
Little opposition is expected and he should win in a landslide.
Though serious challenges remain, Egyptians are very grateful for el-Sisi’s impressive accomplishments.
He rescued 104 million Egyptians from President Mohamed Morsi and the cruelty of the Muslim Brotherhood during the so-called “Arab Spring” when they were imposing a draconian version of Sharia law, destroying the economy, driving away tourists and investors, burning down churches, attacking Christians, and threatening to rip up the peace treaty with Israel.
El-Sisi has brought calm and order to Egypt.
No longer are terror attacks happening on a daily or weekly basis.
Rather, Egyptians once again feel safe, as do foreign visitors, which is helping to fuel the huge growth in tourism to see everything from the pyramids to the Nile River to the treasures of King Tut.
That said, all is not well.
Inflation is raging — up 40% this year.
Food prices alone are up about 70%.
And the value of the Egyptian currency — the pound — has plunged against the American dollar and other international currencies.
That is helping make Egyptian manufactured goods cost less, which is boosting exports.
But inflation and the currency problems are also pushing many Egyptians into poverty.
So, the road ahead for President el-Sisi and the Egyptian people will not be smooth.
El-Sisi and his team have much work to do to keep reforming from the moribund, socialist economy of the Nasser and Sadat eras of the past to a much more robust and dynamic free market economy that attracts far more foreign direct investment, provides far more growth and jobs, stabilizes the currency, and radically reduces inflation.
But el-Sisi is definitely making progress.
Now he’s hoping to get another mandate from the public to continue and accelerate his reform agenda.
I, for one, will be watching closely as I continue to pray for the growth and health of this huge and biblical country.
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