Death or debt confound Egyptians awaiting Morsi's good life

 

CAIRO — On a warm September morning as Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi began his 74th day in office, Heba Ibrahim's mother took her last breath.

Five weeks of treatment for kidney failure at a Cairo hospital had left the 56-year-old mother of four emaciated. Her normally bronze complexion was sallow and the smile that had shepherded her children from infancy to adulthood disappeared behind the mask of a coma. The final breath was drawn on the day the last of Ibrahim's savings ran out.

"It was as if she knew — knew that while she was worth the world to me, we had nothing left to pay to save her life," Ibrahim said in a recent interview, blaming what she said was a health care system that helps only those with means. "Is this the new Egypt we were promised? A miserable country where the only thing left is to sell myself to raise money?"

Her experience highlights the difficulties facing Morsi as he passed 100 days in office last week, a date by which the Islamist had pledged to cure 64 of the ills that beset everyday life under President Hosni Mubarak. Sworn into office in June, he squeezed past his rival Ahmed Shafik with promises of immediate action to clean the streets, improve security and ease traffic congestion, along with longer-term goals of greater social justice and lower poverty.

He's accomplished only four of the short-term pledges, according to the Morsi Meter, a website launched by Zabatak, a nonprofit organization run by politically unaffiliated young people that says it seeks an Egypt "free and safe."

"Change hasn't brought any real benefits on the ground yet," Said Hirsh, Middle East economist with Capital Economics, said by phone. "People's expectations are higher" than the government's "ability to deliver with speed. That risks people losing hope that things will change."

The economy has shown few signs of emerging quickly from its worst economic crisis in a decade, while a $4.8 billion loan application from the International Monetary Fund has yet to be agreed. This leaves the government struggling to find money for the social projects that are a priority for Morsi.

Unemployment has climbed to 12.6 percent and the country needs growth of 7.5 percent to bring that down, the government said on Oct. 9. That's a distant goal for now — Prime Minister Hisham Qandil says he's targeting economic expansion of as much as 4.5 percent this year. The country's economic growth fell to 1.8 percent last year, a 19-year low.

There are other uncertainties — the courts dissolved parliament, there's no constitution and arrests on blasphemy charges have fueled criticism that Morsi, 61, hasn't matched his rhetoric of freedom and dignity with action. There's no date for fresh elections, which will only come after the constitution is drafted and ratified.

"There's been a desire to garner enough political goodwill before the right economic decisions — or before the controversial economic decisions — are taken," according to Wael Ziada of EFG Hermes Holding.

Islamist supporters of Morsi clashed with secular activists Friday in Tahrir Square, in a showdown highlighting the tensions that have built up since he took office in June. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood organized protests to demand the retrial of those acquitted this week of responsibility for the deaths of demonstrators in last year's uprising. Secular groups, who also denounced that verdict, had earlier called for a rally to criticize Mursi's presidency and the growing influence of Islamism.

While analysts and economists are eying macroeconomic barometers, Egyptians, of whom nearly half live on or below the poverty line, focus on the tangible changes.

 

In an Oct. 6 speech commemorating the 1973 war with Israel, having prefaced his remarks with a victory lap in an open-top vehicle driven around a Cairo stadium track, Morsi dismissed criticism that he had wasted public money by taking at least nine overseas trips. The visits were aimed at winning investments.

 

"I still live in a rented apartment," he said.

He has had successes, for example ending a tug-of-war with the military council that inherited power from Mubarak and forcibly retiring the two most powerful generals. Mahmoud Ghozlan, a spokesman for the Brotherhood, described it in a recent interview as "the second revolution." Morsi, a U.S.- trained engineer, says he inherited a nation mired in debt and a legacy of corruption.

The president buttressed his accomplishments with statistics, though did not say from where they came. He said in his Oct. 6 speech that 70 percent of his 100-day plan's security goals were realized together with a majority of targets on bread, traffic and fuel shortages.

"Really?" bus driver Abdel-Halim Arafa said when asked about the president's comments in a recent interview. Arafa's wait at a Cairo gasoline station was in its second hour, the view from his driver-side window one of a mountain of garbage uncollected on the side of the road. "I hadn't noticed."

Ibrahim's near-bankruptcy from medical costs is just another example of the challenges the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Islamist faces. Striking doctors seeking a bigger health budget said that Egypt was headed for a "health care collapse" and that 20 million Egyptians, about one in four, have Hepatitis C.

As doctors unplugged the respirator, Ibrahim, a divorced mother of a three-year-old boy living with two of her three siblings, took stock. A mother dead, friends owed more than 4,000 Egyptian pounds, almost every bit of furniture that held some value sold and a lost 5,000 pound security deposit on the apartment they all shared. In debt and without a steady income, they now faced eviction after having paid more than 10,000 pounds for the roughly five-week hospital stay.

Ibrahim said she was met with bureaucratic intransigence when she applied to have the state cover her mother's medical costs — something she says was much easier under Mubarak.

"I can't see any change," Wael Khalil, an activist and member of the National Front of secularist groups that had rallied behind Morsi in his race against Shafiq, Mubarak's last premier. "Decisions are still made with the same authoritarian attitude."

Contributors: Ahmed A. Namatalla and Ahmed El-Sayed.

News
Jennifer Lawrence was among the stars allegedly hacked
peopleActress and 100 others on 'master list' after massive hack
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

PPC Co-Ordinator – Permanent - West Sussex – £24-£30k

£24000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Are you a Marketin...

Cover Supervisors - WE NEED YOU!

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education have cover supe...

Senior Asset Manager

£70000 - £75000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Katie Robinson +44 (...

SEN British Sign Language Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Birmingham: BSL teachers required to teach in a...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor