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Can a New President Help Egypt's Economy?


A man walks near replicas of Giza Pyramid covered with banners of presidential candidate and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo, May 26, 2014.

A man walks near replicas of Giza Pyramid covered with banners of presidential candidate and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sissi in Cairo, May 26, 2014.


Egypt’s tourist sites are known throughout the world. But these days, people are not lined up to see the Great Pyramids of Giza. Foreign visitors are not filling bus after bus for a ride to the Great Sphinx. Locals say the tourist industry, like others in Egypt, has been flat.

Ahmed Alaa makes traditional boxes and games out of wood and other materials. He says business has been bad since the 2011 revolution.

“So actually before the revolution we were working very much. And there were many tourists in Egypt. But after the revolution we feel very, very bad because the economy in Egypt - it’s not only the tourist [industry] - everything is damaged and everything [has fallen] down.”

President-elect Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s ideas to improve the economy were already in play before the votes were counted. The government plans to cut aid programs and reduce the national deficit. But economic experts warn that this plan could cause more unrest.

Mr. Sissi has called for sacrifices from the Egyptian people. To help the economy recover, he suggested they eat less food, walk more and use less electricity. The president-elect says that under his leadership, Egypt's economy will improve greatly within two years.

But human rights workers watching the situation closely say two years is too long. Some predict Egyptians may take to the streets in protest again.

Mr. Sissi will be the country’s third president in three and a half years. The other two were ousted after popular protests. Mr. Sissi has been leading Egypt since the army jailed former president Mohamed Morsi last July. Thousands of people have been killed or arrested since then. Most of those detained are accused of having ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Even with years of social and political unrest, many Egyptians are willing to sacrifice for their country. Ahmed is a craftsman. He earns less than $150 a month. And he says he can live with some sacrifices.

“We need to work more, and we need to give Egypt more because we can change the life, different than now.”

He says that he hopes some tourists will return to his market now that a real president in power again.

I’m Anna Matteo.

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