Last month, Egypt's Government appealed to the world's major industrial nations to provide the country, over the next five years, with 18 and a half billion dollars.
Last month, Egypt's Government appealed to the world's major industrial nations to provide the country, over the next five years, with 18 and a half billion dollars. The appeal was made following the economic and political boycott of Egypt by the rest of the Arab world, imposed after the peace treaty was signed with Israel. Economists in Egypt have made grim predictions about the economic effect of the boycott -- though many western experts say the claims are exaggerated. Even without the Arab boycott Egypt does have an number of economic problems, and it now seems overcoming them will be all the more difficult.
SYNOPSIS: One of the biggest problems is the crowding of cities. Cairo has six million and more arrive daily as the country's population of 41 million grows by over 80 thousand a month.
Now the country is having to cope without any help from its Arab neighbours, a penalty of peace with Israel. Cairo used to attract both official Arab delegations and tourists. Few come here now. Two years ago aid from Arab countries totalled 1.6 billion dollars; today it has all but dried up.
Most Egyptians are crammed onto the tiny fraction of their country, about 4 percent, that has been made fertile by waters from the River Nile. The rest of Egypt is either sandy desert or marsh. The result is one of the world's highest population densities and a growing shortage of agricultural land.
Industry has been a much-criticised party of the economy. Eighty per cent is government owned, including almost all heavy industry. Critics say that bureaucracy, a lack of consistent policies and off-record payments have been factors in Egypt not taking advantage of opportunities -- chiefly the large, and, by western standards, cheap labour market. The private sector though is showing signs of flourishing under competition -- last year production rose by almost a third.
For Egyptians, peace with Israel has as yet made little difference to their standard of living, and the signs are that it will get worse before improving. For President Sadat, the problem of improving his country's economy may yet prove to be a far more difficult task than his foreign policy achievement.