Mubarak’s billions and a lot of hungry Egyptians

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President Hosni Mubarak and his family could own as much as 70 billion U.S. dollars in assets against a backdrop of millions of hardworking but poverty stricken Egyptians. The North African country’s official unemployment rate exceeds 9 per cent while a fifth of its 80 million population lives on less than a dollar a day. Underemployment and informal work in the country have remained among the highest in the world.

The family fortune of the Mubaraks, according to British newspaper The Guardian, is estimated between 40 and 70 billion dollars, most of which can be traced to Swiss banks or real estate in cities like London, New York, Los Angeles, among others. Some of their investments can also be traced to some cities in the Red Sea region.

President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year rule has allowed him to take advantage of several economic agreements signed with his country especially due to the fact that Egyptian law requires foreign start-up ventures to give away about 20 per cent of their businesses to local partners.

“Almost every project needs a sponsor and Mubarak was well-placed to take advantage of any deals on offer,” Christopher Davidson, professor of Middle East politics at Durham University told the British Daily.

The Mubarak clan heritage makes up about one third of Egypt’s GDP, estimated at nearly $ 90 billion in 2009. And while Gamal and Alaa, the Egyptian President’s sons, are also billionaires, it is not clear how much those close to him own in terms of wealth.

The diversion of public funds is believed to have also contributed to Mubarak’s wealth.

Unemployed youth and poor

In order to arrest recent riots that have crippled the country’s economy and threaten to bring down his regime, Hosni Mubarak’s government on Monday announced a 15 per cent increment of salaries for civil servants.

In a country where the official unemployment rate exceeds 9 per cent and mainly affects young people, a fifth of the estimated 80 million Egyptians live on less than a dollar a day. Absorbed by the informal sector, most Egyptian workers still remain very poor.

Poverty has become endemic to a point where the government is forced to subsidize food and fuel. A programme that represents 30 per cent of its budget, reports Le Figaro newspaper in France.

In a statement on the crisis in Egypt, published February 2, Juan Somavia, Secretary General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), indicated that the dearth of decent work for Egypt’s growing population has contributed to the huge protests now washing across the country and other countries in the region, “where unemployment, underemployment and informal work have remained among the highest in the world.”

“The failure to address this situation effectively, with all of its consequences for poverty and unbalanced development, together with limitations on basic freedoms, has triggered this historic outpouring of popular demands,” he said.

The huge economic gap between Egyptian officials and the general population, particularly the youth, has further fueled the revolt that is currently shaking the foundations of the Hosni Mubarak regime.

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