OPINION: Sisi and Erdogan, and the story of two experiments


by Mohammed Al-Saaed

Audio Article

Erdogan turned his country from a financial, tourist and industrial center into a tottering state of which the currency is melting under the weight of the dollar.

The political and economic experiments of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Turkish President Recep Erdogan deserve to be contemplated. The two states share certain similarities and characteristic features – both are overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and both are considered as a gateway to Europe: Turkey to Asia, and Egypt to Africa. Their populations are large in numbers. The professional working class in the two countries is skilled and diverse and they have an old economic structure with a rich legacy. The major difference is that the star of Egypt is rising politically and economically while the star of Turkey is at a low ebb.

Sisi began his experiment to build the second Egyptian Republic since 2013, and for two consecutive years he had been in the efforts of extinguishing the fires that the terrorist Brotherhood had set on the Egyptian fabric with the aim of liquidating and re-occupying Egypt through terrorism, bombings and bloodshed.

But the terrorists’ acts were not enough to deter Sisi from going ahead with his determination to fight the most difficult battle, which was undoubtedly the economic battle in a country that lacked stable resources but having only limited oil and gas reserves. He assumed office in a country featuring a crumbling infrastructure; rising migration of people to cities following their reluctance to live in the agricultural countryside; the erosion of the middle class; and a surge in the poverty rate, while the Suez Canal, which is the main source of hard currency, was barely functioning.

Sisi decided to float the Egyptian pound freely against the dollar. This is another story of ‘transit.’ There was only a possibility that Egypt could move from the bank of weakness to the bank of a strong state. It was a daring and risky decision, but it was the first path to economic salvage and transformation from a failed state to an economic tiger, and to proceed on a rugged path of reform that warranted major sacrifices, in a country that is well known for sacrifices to serve the national interests. Sisi and Egypt are ready to pay the bill for the return of Cairo to light up the East once again.

Sisi had not stopped at this point but rejuvenated the infrastructure, which all economists know is the fastest development path, the biggest employer for most companies and the greatest job generator.

In politics, Sisi moved to the safer zone where he safeguarded the Egyptian interests professionally and with surgical operations that were instrumental in opening roads in front of the Egyptian policy in Libya, Sudan, Ethiopia and Syria, and finally restoring the Egyptian role in the Palestinian file.

Erdogan, on the other hand, received a viable country for which the foundations were laid by his predecessors -Turgut Ozal, Suleyman Demirel and Ahmet Necdet, along with a popular desire that relied on broad ambitions from business sectors and manufacturers to join the European Union. This prompted the Turks to adopt the “Manifesto” of European success, which depends on the adoption of the administrative and legislative mechanism and the European quality system to have an access to the EU. This was undoubtedly the decision of the ruling class before him but it was Erdogan who reaped its fruits. However, this experiment was quickly subjected to liquidation, after it had been plagued since 2010 by Erdogan’s adventures and personal ambitions, and crazy romantic dreams to restore an empire that had ceased to exist and no more.

Erdogan had sent his armies and his mercenaries to northern Syria, Libya, Azerbaijan and Somalia. These were not free battles but they incurred huge bills, the price of which was paid by the Turkish people at the expense of their economy. Thus Erdogan turned his country from a financial, tourist and industrial center into a tottering state of which the currency is melting under the weight of the dollar, and that resulted in creating apathy on the part of investors and consequently there was a slump in the economy and tourism as well.

These are the two remarkable experiments, worthy of contemplation. How Sisi pulled his Egyptian state out of the clutches of terrorism, poverty and economic weakness, and how Erdogan squandered the gains of his country for which the Turks toiled for decades before he came to power.

Article first published on Saudi Gazette.

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