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Why Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood looks to the private sector to boost the economy

egypt economy

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has drawn up a strongly free-market economic plan and pledges to move fast to negotiate a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if it forms a government after this month's presidential election.

June 7, 2012 1:37 by

Rivals portray the Brotherhood as a nebulous organisation obsessed with religion, but its wide-ranging plan, details of which were revealed during the build-up to last month’s first-round presidential vote, projects a pragmatism that puts rapid economic growth ahead of ideology.


The Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi will face Ahmed Shafiq, the last prime minister of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, in a presidential run-off on June 16 and 17, the climax of Egypt’s first free leadership contest after 16 months of military rule.


Since it swept up the most seats in a parliamentary vote that concluded in January, t he Brotherhood has been at loggerheads with the army-backed interim government, delaying urgent policy solutions to drag the economy from the brink of crisis.


During its last years, Mubarak’s government pushed free market policies that fuelled 7 percent growth for several years, until the 2008 global economic crisis shaved away two or three percentage points.


But the surge of new wealth was seen disproportionately benefiting a small group of people close to the government and the president’s family while pushing up prices and hurting the poor.


A Mursi win would not healEgypt’s political divisions – liberals, leftists and others are deeply suspicious of the Brotherhood’s intentions – and it could take weeks to form a cabinet.


The next hurdle will be the fraught task of writing up a new constitution to replace the current interim constitution which is vague on the division of powers between president and the parliament.


For over a year the Brotherhood has been putting together a detailed economic and social programme called al-Nahda (The Renaissance).


Khairat al-Shater, who was the Brotherhood’s first choice for president until he was disqualified by the state election committee, is the driving force behind the project.


He says the sorry state ofEgypt’s economy and the government’s heavy debts, which he put at 1,140 billion Egyptian pounds ($189 billion), gave the country little choice but to rely on private companies and investors.


“The issue is not an option for Egyptians in the coming period,” he said in an interview in April. “The Egyptian economy must rely to a very, very large degree on the private sector. The priority is for Egyptian investors, then Arab then foreign.”


He said the country needed expensive new power plants to meet rising electricity demand as well as water treatment plants, roads and bridges.


“Where will we get the money to finance these projects?” he said.

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