Arab Spring Leaves Egypt In An Economic Slump Following the revolution that ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, the country's economy is sagging — tourism has plummeted, unemployment is soaring and poverty is spreading. "I have three kids, and I can't even provide enough food for them," one street vendor says.
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Arab Spring Leaves Egypt In An Economic Slump

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Arab Spring Leaves Egypt In An Economic Slump

Arab Spring Leaves Egypt In An Economic Slump

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Unidentified Woman: (Arabic language spoken)

PETER KENYON: Just ask Abu Saud Mustafa, a slender 50-year-old standing on the street holding a stack of papyrus sheets, featuring drawings of Egypt's ancient pharaohs. They used to sell for the equivalent of 10 or $15 a piece, but now, if he can find a tourist to buy one, the best he can get is two or three dollars. For him, desperation has become the norm.

ABU SAUD MUSTAFA: (Through Translator) Ever since the revolution there's been no work. I have three kids and I can't even provide enough food for them. The government has to do something. We need stability and safety, so the tourists come back. This is vital to us, the poor people who depend on a day's work so we can eat.

KENYON: Economist Ahmed El Naggar at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says in its desperate efforts to crush the rebellion, the Mubarak regime further poisoned the economic atmosphere by blaming foreigners for the unrest and releasing prisoners onto the streets.

AHMED EL: And they freed about 23,000 criminals against the society. They pushed them to fight against the society, and this affected the tourism sector, finance sector, and also foreign and internal trade.

KENYON: Economist John Sfakianakis, with the Saudi-Fransi Bank in Riyadh, told Al Jazeera's English Channel as Egypt's revolution unfolded, that the country's economic problems go back well before anything the Mubarak government did or failed to do.

JOHN SFAKIANAKIS: In many ways they go back to the 1950s when the industry was nationalized. In many ways, the entrepreneurial class of Egypt was destroyed since the '50s. The middle class in Egypt shrunk over the last ten years, exponentially. So, as a result, today you have a system where it is semi-capitalist and semi-socialist.

KENYON: There are other tensions to worry about as well. In downtown Cairo, Fathi Said sits in the souvenir shop opened by his grandfather in 1928. A Coptic Christian, Said said he's naturally optimistic - he thinks Egypt has weathered worse economic storms than this. But he fears a resurgence of the kind of Muslim-Christian violence that led to torched churches in the Imbaba Neighborhood earlier this year.

FATHI SAID: After what happened in Imbaba, the curve is going down and out. If nothing happens like that, I think it will be good. If the security is okay, everything will be very, very good.

KENYON: Economist Ahmed El-Naggar also has a positive outlook in the longer term. He points out that Egypt probably won't fare as badly as other countries that have undergone similar upheavals.

EL: Because in transition period in Russia, there was minus ten percent for GDP annually for six years.

KENYON: Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Cairo.

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