Letter: The blame for Luxor

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Letter: The blame for Luxor

Sir: Despicable as terrorist attacks on innocent people are, the blame has to be squarely put on the Egyptian government.

Egyptians used to pride themselves on one of the most equal distributions of income and most comprehensive social security nets among developing countries, and popular opinion sees the years of the 1950s and 60s under President Nasser, who dispossessed the feudal elite, as golden years.

Of course there came the time when the country did not seem to be able to afford all that. With the advent of Sadat populist policies were firmly driven back, and soon the old feudal families re-emerged as rulers of the country.

The current regime under President Mubarak entered the stage after the assassination of Sadat in 1981 with a good reputation. Mubarak is an Air Force officer from a modest background and was hailed for his integrity, unlike the alleged corruption of Sadat and his cronies. Things have changed since then.

The international financial community is increasingly happy with the state of affairs. A structural adjustment programme devised with the help of the World Bank and the IMF has put the country on the map of international portfolio investment as labour regulations, social security and government redistribution policies have given way to shareholder value. The majority of the people do not participate in the boom.

The Muslim Brotherhood was the only big opposition movement in an otherwise thoroughly undemocratic country. It ran schools and social services the government could no longer provide. And it was a home for moderate Islamic opposition. Until two years ago that is, when the leaders were arrested and the whole movement closed down.

Close down a populist movement, and the more active members will go underground. The strongarm tactics of a succession of interior ministers and state security chiefs (the latter are promoted to the former, as happened again this week) create martyrs and do not solve anything.

ULRICH BARTSCH

Oxford

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