Sunday, September 30, 2012

Free (Trade) Gaza!

There's a more practical way
The idea of setting up a free trade zone between Gaza and Egypt seems almost too sensible to ever happen in the contorted logic of the Middle East. Development in the Gaza Strip is hampered most immediately by political restrictions, but also from being pegged to the macro economy of Israel, influencing everything from currency valuation to utility, commodity and consumer product prices that are measured against an industrialized market instead of a developing one. Still, Gaza receives hundreds of millions of dollars annually in funds from international donors, and increasingly from Gulf countries, fueling a mini-boom in an area with a well-educated and young population.

Meanwhile, bordering Gaza is northern Sinai, Egypt’s most restless and most neglected region, encumbered by tribalism, a lack of investment and prioritizing of security over economics.  Yet it has massive potential, attributable to its location and the country’s relatively low cost structure. Common sense would suggest the flow of goods and services would adjust for this imbalance, and partly it has, with more than half a billion dollars said to transfer between Egypt and Gaza annually, but only through illegal, underground tunnels

Monday, September 24, 2012

Trojans and Hooters: Morsi's America

The U.S. press are suckers for foreigners that can say something remotely familiar about American culture.  In this case, a flabby interview by the New York Times with Morsi on the occasion of his upcoming trip to New York, offers the following on his insights into America:
He was also eager to reminisce about his taste of American culture as a graduate student at the University of Southern California. “Go, Trojans!” he said, and he remembered learning about the world from Barbara Walters in the morning and Walter Cronkite at night. “And that’s the way it is!” Mr. Morsi said with a smile.
But he also displayed some ambivalence. He effused about his admiration for American work habits, punctuality and time management. But when an interpreter said that Mr. Morsi had “learned a lot” in the United States, he quickly interjected a qualifier in English: “Scientifically!” 
He was troubled by the gangs and street of violence of Los Angeles, he said, and dismayed by the West’s looser sexual mores, mentioning couples living together out of wedlock and what he called “naked restaurants,” like Hooters. 
I don’t admire that,” he said. “But that is the society. They are living their way.”
Morsi's support for a USC team shamed by the NCAA for its serial cheating shows his appreciation of college football is considerably less refined, and less principled, than it is of domestic football in Egypt.  The President of Egypt learning about the world through Barbara Walters also is unsettling. But most troubling is his lack of esteem for Hooters, that beacon of American culture heavily frequented by every man, woman and child in the United States.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Premiership, Bundesliga, UAE Pro League and the Dawry: It's All Relative

You're missing out ya Shika!
Last week, Egyptian football stars abroad put on a pretty good showing, with decisive assists and goals by Shikabala, Zidan, El Mohamady and Ibrahim Salah.  Unfortunately, this was against Ittihad Kalba (Bitch United?), Al-Dharfa, Leeds and FC Amriswil, and not against Parma (against whom Shika would have been playing had he transferred to Napoli), Bayern Munich (had Zidan not thrown away his Bundesliga career to cash in at the tad less competitive UAE Pro League) or Liverpool (had Elmo played to potential with Sunderland in the Premier League).  Ibrahim Saleh's adventure to Basel gets a pass, for now, given it is the beginning of what can be a very promising experience abroad.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Get Egypt Off the Headlines!

There should be a KPI imposed on Egyptian leaders that measures the prominence of press on the country. The mandate should be that less is more. Egypt is in need of normality. It needs to have kids attending properly functioning schools. It needs gas stations that pump gas. It needs water taps through which liquid comes out in the non-orange variety. It needs to have a sustainable trash collection system. It needs manageable urbanization. It needs a football league with a fixed start date. It needs a bureaucracy empowered to issue permits, grant licenses and generally to get things done. It needs public prosecutors and judges who are guardians of the law and not corrupt populists. It needs a constitution that can provide even a modicum of certainty of individual and social protections to all of its citizens.

Less of that...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Christians, Muslims and Soccer in Egypt

It is difficult for the majority of Egypt's Muslim majority, let alone outsiders (including the team Obama pinheads), to understand the depth of discrimination against Christians in Egypt.  The tendency is to only consider the issue when there is a violent outburst, which is quickly explained away as an isolated act by social deviants, a family feud or part of a conspiracy not involving Egyptians.  A more revealing reflection on the true status of the country's religious disharmony is seen in football, the country's national sporting pastime and passion.

Based on an unscientific review of the rosters of the nineteen or twenty teams of Egypt's still-dormant premier league for the 2012-13 season (even knowing the number of teams that will play in the league with an unknown start date is too much to ask for the comically disorganized football federation), there is not a single Egyptian Christian player, coach or trainer. If you stretch back over the past three or four decades, virtually no Copts are to be found (Hany Ramzy being the most notable exception, another the adequate but not super Mohsen Abdel Masih of Ismaily). The same holds true at the junior ranks and throughout the sporting clubs across the country.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mafeesh Fayda

Revolution or not, fans or not, on-time start or not, it's the same old, same old.  Dubious penalty, red card, Ahly wins.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Egyptian Monopoly

Show me the money
Global financial crisis depressing lending and investment opportunities?  Not here.  Whether it is announcements of Qatari grants, or Chinese joint ventures, or U.S. debt relief, or concessionary EU loans, or the IMF begging to offer credit at five times below market rates, everyone wants to get a piece of the action with Egypt's new ruling regime.  It is time to set the rules of the game to be graced with our attention.

Tenders will be generally awarded to the highest bid following a competitive process, the rules of which will not be disclosed and are subject to change at our sole and absolute discretion, but the general idea is to show me the money.  Conditions on funding are acceptable, provided they do not make us look bad in the immediate term.  Any questions on the specific destination of the funds once received will not be answered.

Prices are quoted on a per annum basis.
Let the bidding begin!
  • Peace treaty with Israel:  Boardwalk.  $5 billion  Even if we could never actually cause much military damage, peace of mind comes at a price, and this is what it is.

  • Suez Canal navigation:  Park Place.  $3.5 billion.  It does not rank in first only because there is an immediate own-goal effect if Egypt gets crazy with canal management, as ships take the longer route around Africa.  Somali pirates might become surprising more active, however, should this become a trend.

  • Anti-Iran alliance:  Pennsylvania Avenue.  $1.5 billion, with a red hotel.  Egypt to share 10% of proceeds with Iran to keep everyone fretting.

Community chest
  • Dialogue with the “Islamic world”:  Get out of Jail Free.  $1.0 billion.  Makes pin-headed geo-strategist Obama feel good to reduce the world into false blocks, where touchy-feely dialogue substitutes for actual engagement.

  • Belly-dancers:  Community Chest.  $1.0 billion.  Gulf Arab lust satisfied, while Egyptian culture and traditions trampled upon.