Friday, July 15, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Egypt Dismisses Tourists

Despite a $13.5-billion loss in revenue from the tourism industry alone, Egypt is gearing up to give another blow to foreigners presently living in the country. News reports are surfacing that expats currently residing in Egypt are being denied visa extensions. Bikya Masr interviewed Mark Hopkins, an American studying Arabic at a local private school, who has had at least five tourist visa extensions. Hopkins asked his school, the International Language Institute, for a letter to potentially acquire a student visa but to no avail. Officials said that only national universities could provide student visas for foreigners in the country.

The article also discussed another American citizen who is currently awaiting approval for a work visa after continuously being stalled. The unnamed source said, “I have a job and until I get the work permit, I can’t work.”

An official at the tourism ministry, Amr Abdelmaged, said: “All we’re doing is enforcing the rules of law that most tourists in other countries abide by so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to the foreigners who are not getting extensions.”

And once again, these so-called decision makers have no idea what they’re doing to their own economy. I agree with monitoring visa permits, but by placing restrictions such as only recognizing national universities to obtain a student visa is like shooting yourself in the foot. There are many private schools throughout the country that generate a great deal of revenue for Egypt’s economy. By denying visa extensions, the government is going to put more Egyptians out of jobs and further hurt its GDP (which, by the way, was previously estimated to grow at 7% per annum and has now dropped to a mere 1% although I think its GDP will eventually retract).

The beauty in all of this is the country practically on its knees begging tourists to flood the once busy pyramids and other money-making attractions. Even better are the government pleas asking for more foreign investment and financial aid from organizations like the World Bank, USAID and European financiers. The G8 announced that it would support a financial assistance package for Egypt and Tunisia while the EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB) granted the country €13-billion in loans over the next three years. Additionally the European Commission is set to establish a program to support democracy and economic growth with about €350 million in grants.

Perhaps the government is simply trying to localize its industries more so than ever before, hoping to provide jobs to all those that are unemployed. That’s terrific – if ONLY the government provided its people with the proper tools to carry on tasks that foreigners were brought in to do in the first place. Egypt, do you really think that companies like importing staff? Do you realize that it is much cheaper for businesses to hire locals than pay for expats?

So while Egypt continues to ask for money while denying foreigners visas, perhaps the country should learn the hard way. Localize your industries without the proper training and let’s see how well that turns out. Oh and don’t expect the foreigners to train your staff before giving them the boot, you want it so badly, do it yourself. This should be easy to accomplish considering that industries in Egypt are currently only operating at 50% capacity because of labor strikes, instability and continuous protests. Exports have plummeted by 40% and budget deficits are set to hit 8.6% of its GDP in 2012.

Also get ready for the backlash from those organizations that provide you with a hefty sum of cash. I feel sorry for the Egyptians that understand the so-far horrendous actions of the interim government and even those that seem to be placated in these newfound privileges. I give it two years max before the entire country is begging for the return of Mubarak and foreign-operated companies.

Pacifying the Masses

Last Friday kicked off the largest demonstrations since the protests that resulted in Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. Protestors once again crowded Cairo’s Tahrir Square calling for swifter judicial proceedings against members of the former regime. And to kick start the pacifying the impatient, an Egyptian court sentenced the country’s former prime minister Ahmed Nazif to a one-year suspended jail term. The former interior minister Habib al-Adli was sentenced to five years with the ex-finance minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali getting slammed with 10 years. Then came a cabinet reshuffle with Egypt’s prime minister forced to accept the resignation of his deputy, Yehia el-Gamal (important note: Gamal tried to resign earlier, but the military council rejected his resignation but mounting pressure from demonstrators forced its acceptance). Nazif, al-Adli and Boutros-Ghali were fined $15.6 million with Boutros-Ghali and al-Adli receiving an additional fine of $16.9 million.

In another effort to placate people angry over the “slow pace of reform” (I know, apparently a new constitution, popular-elected president and staff and recouped money from reportedly corrupt officials should happen in less than 24 hours – I mean, that’s how the real world obviously works), the government announced the dismissal of over 650 police officers alleged to have been involved in crimes under the Mubarak administration.

However, if the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) thinks this is going to appease the crowds, live up that hour of peace because it’s only a matter of time (more like the following Friday) before they come up with yet a new reason to invade the so-called “Liberation Square.” Nothing has been liberated since the onset of this movement.

*All photos taken during the January 25 protests*


  1. Wow...that doesn't sound good. Rejecting foreigners visas....bad move. Egypt is a country greatly helped by tourism dollars and foreign workers. Them taking steps to hurt foreigners will only cause them greater harm in the end.

  2. There is another blog here which says this is not true...

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  4. Hi Mara, I do know a friend in Hurghada that received her extension; however, she's also married to an Egyptian an in order to legalize paperwork, she had to have a valid visa. I will find out about mine in oh, 12 hours. I will also add that after checking around, I've found others that were denied.

    And I would be more than happy to let Luxor Times Magazine meet three German girls recently denied, but they'd have to phone Germany as they were sent back. I also have two other Americans in my building that recently graduated from AUC and were denied extensions. So therefore, I have to wonder, did Luxor Times check into other leads?

    Regardless, I will write about what happens with mine and let you know. Thanks for the link.