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Saturday, 5 February 2011

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Mubarak Worth More Than $70 Billion - NEWSMAX.COM

Friday, 04 Feb 2011

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and his family have amassed a fortune estimated at $70 billion according to analysis by Middle East experts poll by the London Guardian. And very little of that stash is kept in his own country, they say. Much of his wealth is in British and Swiss banks or tied up in real estate in London, New York, Los Angeles and along expensive tracts of the Red Sea coast.

How does a dictator get so rich? Over 30 years as president, and before that a senior military officer, allowed Mubarak has access to the oligarchs who control much of the investment capital in Egypt’s very closed, highly bureaucratic system. Investment deals have generated hundreds of millions of pounds in profits for Mubarak. Most of those gains have been taken offshore and deposited in secret bank accounts or invested in up-market homes and hotels.

According to a report last year in the Arabic newspaper Al Khabar, Mubarak has properties in Manhattan and exclusive Beverly Hills addresses on Rodeo Drive.

His sons, Gamal and Alaa, are also billionaires. A protest outside Gamal's ostentatious home at 28 Wilton Place in Belgravia, central London, highlighted the family's appetite for western trophy assets.

Amaney Jamal, a political science professor at Princeton University, told the Guardian that the estimate of $40 billion to $70 billion was comparable with the vast wealth of leaders in other Gulf countries.

"The business ventures from his military and government service accumulated to his personal wealth," she told ABC news. "There was a lot of corruption in this regime and stifling of public resources for personal gain.

"This is the pattern of other Middle Eastern dictators so their wealth will not be taken during a transition. These leaders plan on this."



Poverty: Trapped by a poor education
By Heba Saleh

Published: December 15 2010 16:48 | Last updated: December 15 2010 16:48

The unpaved, rubbish-strewn alleys of Ezbet Gabra Zarifa, a Cairo slum, are in shadow because the shacks are huddled too close together to allow the sunlight to penetrate. The area is on the eastern edge of the city near the tanneries where its people find irregular low-paid work. It is one of many pockets of extreme poverty dotting Egypt and housing the poorest 20 per cent of the population.

But Ezbet Gabra Zarifa is also the scene of a two-year pilot project, sponsored by the government, which aims to break the transfer of poverty from parents to children. The Conditional Cash Transfers scheme gives mothers in 165 selected families a monthly stipend of $35 against obligations which include keeping children in school, attending meetings on health and hygiene and, crucially, receiving guidance and a monthly visit from a social worker.

“The cash transfer helps me to pay for lessons for my daughters,” says Reda Saad, an illiterate mother of four who lives with her entire family in one room. “My husband’s job is to unload trucks carrying skins to the tanneries. He might earn E£20 a day [less than $4], but it is irregular, so he doesn’t always bring money home.”

Hania Sholkamy, the anthropologist heading the programme, says work has already started to take it to 44,000 families in villages in the governorates of Assiut and Sohag in Upper Egypt. Rural areas in the south account for more than 40 per cent of the poverty in the country.

“This is the only programme that creates capacity to deal with poverty,” she says. “It provides a social protection floor which has to come before you can even give something like micro credit.”

Roughly 20 per cent of Egyptians live below the World Bank poverty line. Another 20 per cent, who hover above it, are considered near-poor. According to the government’s latest household expenditure survey in 2008, four-fifths of Egyptian families have less than $3,000 to spend each year.

Reducing poverty remains one of the government’s biggest challenges. So far, economic growth has had only a limited impact on those at the bottom of the scale. Before the global crisis hit, growth averaging 7 per cent between 2006 and 2008 produced a reduction in poverty from 23.4 per cent to 18.9 per cent. Since then, however, one of the highest rates of food price inflation in the world has wiped out much of the gain, with the poverty rate reaching 21.6 per cent.

Expensive food has added to the pressures on Egyptians, provoking a long string of localised protests and strikes by civil servants and workers. Protesters’ demands have been focused on the issues of pay and benefits and the government has usually tried to satisfy them, preventing their anger from acquiring a more political hue.

In addition, tough policing and the regime’s low tolerance for dissent ensure that opposition movements remain weak and unable to capitalise on public disgruntlement over prices.

To forestall any potential social explosion, Egypt has for decades subsidised some food and all fuel for its citizens. This year $11.5bn is allocated to fuel and $2.3bn to subsidising food, accounting for just over 20 per cent of all public spending and costing more than health and education combined.

Ministers say they recognise that the subsidies are a blunt and wasteful weapon for combating poverty, often benefiting the rich more than the poor and diverting valuable resources from crucial sectors such as infrastructure, health and education. There are plans to phase out some subsidies and better target others, but the implementation is expected to be gradual and hampered by fears of adding to both inflation and social disgruntlement. The start date is not likely to come before presidential elections next September.

“Egypt’s poor – generation after generation – have been marginalised and deprived of those rights which have been shown to break the cycle of poverty,” says this year’s Egypt Human Development Report. “Egypt is way behind other middle-income countries, let alone emerging economies, in raising basic standards of health, nutrition and education of the most vulnerable members of its population, namely children and youth.”

The report says that low educational attainment is the big factor in transmitting poverty across generations. It describes education as “the most obstinate divide that discriminates across society between the haves and the have-nots”. It recommends an overhaul of the country’s basic educational and vocational training systems.

Indeed, paying for private lessons for children who are already attending state schools is one of the heaviest burdens on poor families.

The World Bank says that spending by families on education is 2.5 times the amount spent by the government. Even the very poor find that they have to set aside hefty chunks of their small incomes to pay for lessons, sometimes from the same teachers responsible for their children at school.

Costly education, along with pressures that force the poor to send their children to work, mean that the drop-out rate is highest among the lowest strata of society. This in turn ensures that the children of the poor end up with low-paid work and fail to emerge from the poverty trap.

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