The most important fact about Egypt as 2005 draws to a close is that the startling change of direction in Egyptian policy making-toward a vibrant market economy and away from an antediluvian, insular, authoritarian posture-begun with the reform cabinet installed in 2004 is still alive and moving forward.
Example: One of the world's biggest car makers also operating in Egypt meets with the new head of Egypt's Foreign Trade Ministry, complains about Egyptian suppliers, and very soon after the meeting sees the establishment of a public-private program aimed at advancing hundreds of small and medium Egyptian enterprises (SMEs) into the new global millennium. This from an October 24, 2005 Agence France-Press (AFP) dispatch.
Nonetheless, a Lebanese economist writing in The Daily Star (Beirut) on October 8, 2005, observed that currently Egypt's economy has three basic problems. One, foreign direct investment (FDI) is low. Two, unemployment is high, officially at 9.9 percent but probably twice as much according to "most local economists" cited in an October 11, 2005 report by the United Nations (UN) Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). And three, violent social unrest continues.
The perspective is similar to that of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In its magazine, IMF Survey with a cover date of August 2005, the IMF said that, indeed, FDI was lacking but could be improved by an acceleration of structural reform and a strengthening of the country's monetary policies.
Egypt's consumer base of 74-million exhibits a sharp contrast between a growing, prosperous middle class and the urban and rural poor.
But Egypt's rich culture is a source not only of a strong national identity but also of important tourism revenue, economic growth and jobs for its citizens. The above referenced Daily Star story says that Egypt is home to approximately one third of the world's historical monuments.
The Star says also that Cairo is the biggest cultural center in the Arab world and the city dominates contemporary Arab media with, for example, 95 percent of Arab cinema produced there.