I don’t claim to have a deep knowledge of current Egyptian politics. So, I start out by saying I’m cautious about falling in love quickly. But, heck, Hamdeen Sabahi has a big mark in his favor: he does not like the so-called “free market”.
You gotta love this:
Do not listen to your allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Sabahi said he warned President Mohamed Morsi, of the Brotherhood’s political arm, in a private meeting a few weeks ago. “Because the Brotherhood’s economic and social thought is the same as Mubarak’s: the law of the markets,” Mr. Sabahi said he had told Mr. Morsi, referring to Hosni Mubarak, the former president. “You will just make the poor poorer, and they will be angry with you just as they were with Mubarak.”
Mr. Sabahi, 58, a leftist in the style of another former president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, frightens most economists. He is an outspoken opponent of free-market economic moves in general as well as of a pending $4.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund that economists say is urgently needed to avert a catastrophic currency collapse. [emphasis added]
Mr. Sabahi insists the I.M.F. loan would be unnecessary if the country followed his radical prescriptions to turn away from Western economic orthodoxy. In addition to steeper annual taxes on the rich, Mr. Sabahi is calling for Egypt to meet its deficit with a one-time 20 percent tax on the wealth of anyone with more than about $17 million, which he says is about 1 percent of Egyptians.
He is calling for a ban on all exports of raw materials, including the important commodities of natural gas and cotton, so they can be used for domestic production. He proposes to increase fees on businesses that use natural resources as well as on real estate and stock market transactions. And at the same time he wants to expand Egypt’s already bloated public sector to create more jobs for the poor.[emphasis added]
This will be interesting to follow. The “Arab Spring” was certainly motivated partly by an uprising against dictators. But, it was because those dictators could not run an economy that gave most people real jobs, especially young people. The poverty in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, to cite three examples, was a particularly gross example of austerity-driven “free markets” with, of course, the extra twist of a dictatorship at the helm.
But, if the people hear a coherent critique of the so-called “free market” from someone who has a following, who knows where that might lead. Higher taxes on the rich? A tax on stock market transactions? We’ll see.