Connect to share and comment

As Egypt's presidential election presents extraordinary challenges, GlobalPost offers this continuing series to shed light on how the country will move forward under its first-ever civilian head of state and how the soon-to-be-drafted constitution will protect civil rights in a new Egypt. 

Egypt: Uncertainty is bad for business

A country's economy caught between social justice and the "production wheel."

the government restores the trust of the people that the government is really working for their benefit.

On the contrary, political activists, analysts, and international rating agencies blame an absence of a clear political and economic vision by the Egyptian authorities to end the gloomy transition period.

Standard and Poor’s (S&P) and Fitch Ratings have downgraded Egyptian currency ratings to negative as wavering political policies to end the transition period take longer than expected.

"Fitch Ratings believes Egypt cannot begin its long-term recovery until there is more certainty about its political future," the agency said in a statement released early in October.

"Fitch has previously said it expected the sharp fall in foreign currency reserves largely as a result of substantial capital outflows to start being reversed by external support in Q4. The delays to the political transition are now causing concern, with reserves continuing to fall, and the global backdrop less supportive," the agency stated.

Tourism hard hit, but hopes high

Tourism has undergone a severe decline since February, directly after the toppling of the country's strongman Hosni Mubarak. It began to pick up in the following months, especially in areas away from Cairo where instability was greatest.

"Numbers of tourists are coming close to the normal in the Red Sea, Sharm El-Shiekh, Hurgada as occupancy rates in hotels reach up to 65 percent. The big problem is in Cairo which is associated in the mindset of everybody with the political turmoil," Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Authority Amr El-Ezabi told GlobalPost.

"The accumulated decrease of tourists from the beginning of the events until now is around 40 percent. In February, we witnessed a decrease worth 80 percent; 60 percent in March; 40 percent in April and in September the decrease is only 20 percent," he added.

El-Ezabi expects the rate will come back to normal by February of next year.

Mina House restaurant manager Ehab El-Husseini said that the hotel is suffering a decrease of 70 percent in occupancy rates, adding that tourists get easily affected by what he believes are incorrect perceptions about the political turmoil in Egypt.

"We were expecting a foreign delegation of 817 tourists to stay in our hotel, but a rumor circulating about a mass protest in Tahrir following Maspero violence decreased the numbers of tourists coming to only 70," El-Husseini said.

"A rumor of a protest that never took place affected us that much," he added. "People perceive that the protests all spanning the entire country, but they do not know that they are only in certain places away from touristic destinations."

El-Ezabi agrees. "A lot of things happening now are a matter of perception. There are labor strikes worldwide, in London, in Spain and in Wall Street."

He added that labor strikes took place in front of the parliament and the cabinet even before the revolution, but they increased in frequency "which is normal in a country like Egypt where the rights of organization, expression and communication are the real basics of an evolving democracy,"

El-Husseini said a clear roadmap for ending the transition period with a specific timeline for parliamentary and presidential elections is the only solution left to boost tourism and bring back investment influx into the country.

"We need a civilian president; a military rule cannot create a fertile investment environment. Add to this a weak government that cannot intervene to control the security vacuum and approach strikes," El-Husseini said.

Being severely affected by the political turmoil in Egypt, vendors and camel jockeys working in the pyramids at Giza find it hard not to blame labor strikes for causing their economic disparity.

Her face tan after staying for hours selling water bottles and Pepsi cans near the pyramids and a big green veil covering her entire body, Om Hassan, 52, wishes more tourists would visit the pyramids after the strikes in the country stop. The mother of three hopes that will boost the "production wheel," citing a term first coined by ousted president Hosni Mubarak in his second speech during the uprising when he called on Tahrir protesters to go