http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2011/06/23/154548.html

Talk about the Egyptian economy is all over the media and it doesn’t usually look very promising. Sometimes it is things I personally don’t understand like which stock market index plunged by this or that percentage and closing in green or red and like the drop in international reserves at the Central bank or like the status of some loan offered by the World Bank and countless terms most Egyptians—I am one of those who always skipped the economy section in any newspaper —have not heard of before or have not felt the necessity to know of. Other times it is things the economy-illiterate can easily grasp like “we’ll run out of wheat in a couple of months,” “tourism has almost ground to a halt,” “unemployment rates reach unprecedented levels” and so on and so forth of all the stuff lay people like myself can understand.

That is not the problem. Well, of course it is a fatal problem, but I mean that’s not what I am after here. Regardless of how simple or complicated economy updates are and how far they are understood by the majority of Egyptians, everybody can now see it doesn’t look so good. While some try to analyze the current conditions in order to try to foresee whether the future is as bleak as some reports have it—this is the group that knows economics—others try to understand, look for ways to help, or just hope things will get better—this is the group that knows no economics—and another others frown, scoff, or let out a bitter smile and blame the revolution—this is the group that knows nothing at all.

“I hope those who spent nights and days in Tahrir are happy now that we are on the verge of famine.” “So those people who claim to love the country do not mind seeing it starve?” “Let us see how we can eat and drink democracy.” It struck me the majority of complaints allegedly about the economy by this group of people focus on almost nothing other than food. This always reminds me of an Egyptian actress—a very mediocre one if that makes a difference—who was on TV ten days after the revolution had started and was almost in tears that her two-year-old nephew can’t eat the beef chops he is used to having every night for dinner—everyone was wondering what kind of a kid is that—and that her family is devastated for not getting their pizza delivered to their doors. For months, she was the laughing stock of social networking websites and newspapers, her words became the lyrics of several songs, and caricatures were drawn of this carnivore nephew of hers.

The actress’s words were not only shocking because of her extreme insensitivity to the people who had been dying to liberate the country, her astounding indifference to this country’s future, or her shameless display of selfishness, but also because she was telling a blatant lie; Nobody starved during the revolution. Well, if beef chops and pizza are her and her family’s only means of survival, then I am not sure this is the revolution’s problem, and if the other group that talks about food all the time is worried that one day they might not find gruyere cheese or chocolate chip cookies then I suggest they immigrate to Switzerland.

Thinking economy is all about food is not new to some Egyptians—a special type of them let’s say. I remember a few years ago a group of university professors from different specializations were talking about the deterioration of national economy since Mubarak came to power and started analyzing the negative impact of privatization and the monopoly of steel… etc. I kept silent because I knew this was not my thing. Then one of the junior members of staff—I am sorry to say she comes from my department—suddenly interrupted them and said, “What economy problems? This is absolutely not true.” They were all silent for a few seconds, then one of them decided to explore where the genius statement came from. “Would you please honor us with an explanation of why you believe there are no economic problems?” With a self-confidence I think the director of the World Economic Forum won’t posses, she replied, “How can you have problems with the economy when peanut butter is now in every supermarket?”

Food or no food, at the time of an uprising, the economy sustains of course a severe damage simply because any unrest negatively affects investments, tourism, trade, the stock market, and all the other things economists talk about and not because there is a specific party—the revolutionaries or anybody else—that has to take the blame. However, in the case of Egypt there is in fact one culprit, and it is certainly not those who risked their lives—or actually lost them—while others were whining about not having their favorite cereal for breakfast. Let me take you back to a day I shall never forget, January 28, aka Friday of Fury. After a whole-day battle between unarmed civilians and security forces with tear gas, water canons, rubber bullets, and live ammunition, the tumult suddenly came to a frightening halt and in a matter of minutes, not one single person in uniform could be spotted where we were. “The Interior Ministry withdrew the police,” murmured the dumbfounded protestors.

Nobody understood why a few moments ago they wanted to crush every single one of us and now they are leaving us in peace. The “peace” followed 15 minutes later. It was then that we realized it was not the security forces fighting the protestors that were withdrawn; it was the entire police force from the whole country. As I was walking in search of a place to go after Cairo turned into a city of ghosts, I saw dozens of motorcycles venturing into the deserted streets in what seemed like a parade. Then they started distributing themselves among stores and ATM machines and the hours-long looting lasted till it was broad daylight the next morning. On that same day, we knew that around 30,000 prisoners—many from the death row—ran away from jails and police stations after “stealing” every weapon they came across. The reinforcement soon joined the front lines in the breaking and entering saga that lasted for days. With not one single guard left and with all vital facilities left without security, it went without saying that banks, embassies, companies, and factories closed their doors and that all activities related to any of those came to a standstill. Even the border control officers at the airport were told to stay at home. Those whose workplaces were not directly threatened by the security vacuum stayed at home for fear of the 24/7 attacks by thugs or because they stayed all night in neighborhood watch checkpoints to protect their homes and families from the same thugs.

Meanwhile, thousands, and on some days millions, of Egyptians continued their peaceful protests in a square in Downtown Cairo to call for the ouster of the regime that not only left the country it is supposed to protect totally unprotected, but also unleashed an army of outlaws on its defenseless subjects and on all the businesses that upheld the national economy. And while they were doing that, we were also fending off the battalion of the regime’s thugs specializing in terrorizing the protestors—will anybody forget what is known as “the battle of the camel”—and anybody who attempts to help them. I will never forget the day I and a friend of mine were delivering food and first aid to the square and around 40 thugs surrounded us with clubs and prevented us from going in. At the same time, their colleagues at the other entrance to the square were throwing the food in the Nile to make sure the people there would starve so they would either die right there and then or go home and forget about toppling the regime.

What people who blame the revolution are doing is acting as if those thugs have always been part of our lives and that the protestors are the intruders, as if what they called the “occupation” of Tahrir Square was the reason for the terror they felt as they heard gunshot all night long and wondered if their house will be the next target, and as if those thugs did not constitute one last proof that the regime had a much uglier face than everyone had expected.

As for all the things you might not find in the supermarket for the coming period, let me ask you two straightforward questions: One, have you ever read about other revolutions and the damage that followed them? Two, is freedom not even worth giving up your favorite chocolate brand or the imported cherries you liked to have on top of your homemade cheese cake? (By the way those two are still available in Egypt).