Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Bitter economic pill is one Egypt must swallow

Egyptians may not like Mr Kerry, but his advice needs urgently to be heard, and heeded.

'Kerry of the Muslim Brotherhood is in Egypt" read the protesters' posters. Each one featured a caricature of America's new secretary of state as a heavily bearded Brotherhood member.

The demonstrators, outside the foreign ministry in Cairo, were angry at John Kerry's appearance in the capital at the weekend. Talks with Egypt's president, Mohammed Morsi, could only underscore the Brotherhood's power, the protesters believed.

America's relationship with Egypt is complicated. The US spent three decades propping up the authoritarian state of Hosni Mubarak, and Egyptians have not forgotten that. At the same time many Egyptians, particularly those inclined towards secular government or against the Brotherhood, would have preferred not to see the US stamp of approval on the presidency of Mr Morsi, even though he was elected fairly.

But how can the US be expected to ignore Egypt or its new ruling party? The key reason that led Barack Obama to speak in Cairo in 2009 remains valid: Egypt is an indispensable country in the Arab world. A dialogue with Egypt is vital to a dialogue with the rest of the region.

But in a dialogue, both sides need to listen. Egyptians may not like the messenger, but Mr Kerry's advice needs urgently to be heard, and heeded. And when the top American diplomat says Cairo needs to rapidly conclude talks with the IMF, he is stating Egypt's best interests.

The $4.8 billion (Dh17.6bn) IMF loan, being negotiated after many delays, comes with a host of conditions, including cuts in consumer subsidies on food and fuel. Lifting subsidies at a time of economic hardship for many millions of Egyptians will be unpopular. But some movement is needed.

Moreover, the value of the IMF loan is not measured merely in dollars. More than immediate cash, what Egypt needs is stability and the perception of stability. Settling the IMF loan would send a signal that Egypt was open for business. Then, in spite of the uncertainty on the streets, Egypt's leaders could decide a course and commit to charting it for years. Such moves would steady the nerves of investors, business owners and potential tourists as well.

That was Mr Kerry's message, but should he have said it quite so loudly? No matter how wise and prudent a piece of advice may be, sometimes it is better delivered softly and in private. The US-Egyptian relationship is evolving, and both sides must learn to respect the limitations of the other.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Ali Benflis, opposition leader and main rival to Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika speaks to the press after casting his vote in the presidential elections at a polling station in Algiers on. Former prime minister Benflis ran against Bouteflika in 2004 but lost heavily, charging the vote was rigged 10 years ago and has said fraud will be his ‘main adversary’ during the election. Patrick Baz / AFP Photo

Best photography from around the world, April 17

The National View's photo editors pick the best images of the day from around the world.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Southampton owner Katharina Liebherr is pictured before the Premier League match between Southampton and Liverpool at St Mary's Stadium in Southampton, southern England, on March 1, 2014. Glyn Kirk / AFP

New Southampton owner leading club’s resurgence from the shadows

Katharina Liebherr keeping with family tradition and letting others dominate the spotlight

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National