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February 10, 2012

Egypt struggles to recover tourism, investment

Egypt struggles to recover tourism, investment

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Egypt
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Location of Egypt

A map showing the location of Egypt

To write, edit, start or view other articles on Egypt, see the Egypt Portal
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The Egyptian pound is currently falling in value.
Image: Mabuhelwa.

Standard & Poor’s downgraded Egypt’s currency rating for the second time in four months based on the country’s shorfall in foreign reserves and shaky political transition. It’s the latest development for a nation facing mounting economic diffuclties.

Egypt’s foreign reserves fell by over 50 percent last year to about US$16 billion. Egypt has requested US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund to bolster its reserves and prevent a devalation but that could take months.

Experts say that Egypt’s problem of attracting foreign investment and tourists, which are two sources that would increase reserves, has already caused the Egyptian pound to lose 1 percent of its value and if the country doesn’t solve the shortfall in foriegn currency, it could even lead to a further currency devaluation within the next two to three months.

The long-term solution is to restore tourism and foreign investments but both are suffering because of the continuing unrest.

Tourism

The Sphynx was said to guard the city of Thebes by killing anyone who couldn’t answer a riddle.
Image: Schreibkraft.

Egyptian tourism suffered this past year as a result of a revolution, a transition to an elected government, and continuing signs of unrest and instability.

The Egyptian Revolution began on January 25 last year and President Hosni Mubarak resigned over two weeks later on February 11. The protests have continued as Egyptians grew uncomfortable with the military’s control over the transition. At the start of this month, 79 people were killed at a soccer event in Port Said.

Tourism in Egypt accounted for US$12.5 billion in 2010 but fell 30 percent, or US$8.8 billion, in 2011, according to Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Egypt’s tourism minister. Tourism accounts for 11.6 percent of Egypt’s GDP.

Tourists visit The Valley of the Kings in Egypt. It holds 63 tombs and chambers for Pharaohs and nobles of the New Kingdom era. The valley is on the west bank of the Nile across from Thebes.
Image: Markh.

Last week, two U.S. female tourists and their Egyptian guide were abducted in the Sinai peninsula by Bedouin tribesmen and released shortly afterward.

The kidnapping took place in broad daylight on a busy road while the tourists travelled after a visit to St. Catherine’s Monastery. Masked tribesmen stopped their bus, abducted the tourists by gunpoint, and escaped into the mountains. Three other tourists of unknown nationalities were left on the bus. Local authorities organized a search which ended in negotiations with local Bedouin tribesmen. The Bedouin demanded the release of recently apprehended tribesmen, who had been detained for drug trafficking and robbery. The US hostages were released unharmed, Abdel Nour said.

As a location, Egypt boasts ancient pyramids, the Nile River, Biblical sites like Mount Sinai, museums, and Red Sea coastal resorts. Last year the number of tourists plunged from fifteen million people down to nine million, which is a 40 percent drop.

A camel resting between rides at the Pyramids in Egypt.
Image: Crashsystems.

The low amount of tourism to Egypt has also affected tourism in other countries. Stas Misezhnikov, Israeli tourism minister, said that Israeli tourism is down because the flow of tourism from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort is “almost nonexistent right now.”

Investment

Egypt’s current investment climate is also severely hampered by the perception that the climate is not yet right for investment.

Mulyani Indrawati, managing director of the World Bank, said investors were not ready to get back into the markets of the Arab Spring countries until stability is restored but the situation has also been exacerbated by the precarious state of the regional and international economy.

Egypt’s domestic politics is threatening one of the country’s largest stable sources of foreign investment. The United States’ annual military aid to Egypt accounts for US$1.5 billion. U.S. politicians have threatened to withhold that aid package, however, because of an investigation into pro-democracy NGOs that involve 19 American citizens and more U.S. money. Senator John Kerry said the Egyptian investigation is a “dangerous game that risks damaging both Egypt’s democratic prospects and the U.S.-Egyptian bilateral relationship.”

Faiza Abou el-Naga, who is the Egyptian minister who distributes Egypt’s aid money, a former Mubarak loyalist who survived through the transition, and one of Egypt’s most visible female politicians, claims the NGOs are meddling in her country’s sovereignty. Both the Muslim parties who won the election and the generals in power are backing those hearings. Her argument that foreigners are meddling in Egypt also has a populist appeal.

The military government’s slow transition is also stalling foreign investments. Khaled bin Mohamed al-Attiya, foreign minister of Qatar, said a few weeks ago his government is holding back from making US$10 billion in investments because power has not been transferred to an elected government. The other Middle Eastern countries that pledged investments, such as Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are also waiting.

The Egyptian government announced this week that it was investigating Yasser el-Mallawany, an investment banker with EFG Hermes based in Cairo, for allegedly paying soccer fans to riot at Port Said, a charge which el-Mallawany dismissed and attributed to gossip.

Meanwhile, investors within Egypt are looking for other investment vehicles such as real estate as they fear holding cash in a period of devaluation.

Florence Eid, who is an expert on Middle Eastern economies at U.K. Arabia Monitor, said the situation throughout the Middle East could get worse. “People are frustrated because the reasons that they revolted against to begin with, are still there,” Eid said. “Whoever said this was going to be smooth was naive.”

Related news

“One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak” — Wikinews, January 25, 2012

Sources

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Egyptian Pound (EGP) in US Dollar (USD)

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January 13, 2012

Observing the 2012 Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US, and wider world

Observing the 2012 Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the US, and wider world

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Friday, January 13, 2012

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This week US citizens observed National Human Trafficking Awareness Day through acts of education, legislation, and enforcement; whilst, around the world, other people highlighted or tackled this global problem in their own countries.

According to an annual report on human trafficking released by the US State Department in June last year, 27 million men, women and children are exploited through human trafficking. Worldwide, at least two million children are estimated to be trafficked victims of the sex trade; and, in military conflicts, it is not uncommon for children to be forced to bear arms. In releasing the report last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of international cooperation in addressing trafficking, and cultural issues associated with it.

Brown, orange and red are source countries, while light blue and dark blue countries are destinations for victims of human trafficking.
Image: KVDP.

Under the United Nations’ Palermo Protocols, human trafficking encompasses cases where victims are born into slavery, forcibly transported for exploitation, consented to work with a trafficker, and/or were forced to participate in criminal activities. The Protocols also recognize the unique status and rights of children.

US-based action

Reports from across the United States show a number of communities taking local action to solve, or otherwise highlight, this global problem.

In Southern California, Sister Caritas Foster is an advocate for the area’s victims of human trafficking. Commenting on the area’s involvement, she stated: “We in the San Francisco Bay Area are one of the largest receiving areas with our borders and coasts”. For over four years, Foster has worked on educating the public on human trafficking, speaking to civic and religious groups and describing the power traffickers hold over their victims through vivid accounts of situations trafficked individuals find themselves in. Many have no idea where they are located, suffer under the constant threat of deportation, and most often lack the language abilities to seek help.

Los Angeles politician Don Knabe said human trafficking was not a distant problem but one that hits close to home. As the county supervisor overseeing the fourth district in Los Angeles County, Knabe cited figures from the Probation Department showing 84 percent of arrests of children on prostitution charges in 2010 were in his district; he believes the overall problem for the county is much larger, and wants the Probation Department to establish a special unit dedicated to sexually exploited minors.

Northward in Seattle, Washington, members of the King County Sheriff’s department realized that law enforcement had to deal supportively with the symptoms of human trafficking — rather than putting victims in jail. This gave birth to the “Genesis Project” where sheriff’s deputies offer potential victims of trafficking a comfortable safe haven with amenities for 24 hours, and put them in touch with social services for counselling, job training, and education advice.

Politicians from several states have sought to address the connection between tourism and human trafficking; Indiana’s state Senate unanimously passed a human trafficking bill on Tuesday morning. Current legislation only considered forced marriage and prostitution as human trafficking; loopholes in the existing laws allowed some forms of human trafficking to escape prosecution. Lawmakers in the state hope to toughen their human trafficking laws, and have new legislation on the statute books in time for the Super Bowl, due to be held in Indianapolis on February 5. The just-passed bill now goes to the House for approval.

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Also on Tuesday, lawmakers from Hawaii held a special hearing on human trafficking. Kathryn Xian, of Pacific Alliance to Stop Slavery, says traffickers capitalize on the state’s tourist-based economy. She introduced a package of seven bills she says will help prevent human trafficking in the state.

At a national level, the US government continues to work abroad on the issue of trafficking; Luis CdeBaca, a special ambassador for human trafficking, is working with Myanmar, commonly known as Burma, as the country seeks to improve diplomatic relations with the United States. Myanmar was identified by the US State Department as having one of the worst records of forced labor, and as a country that lacks necessary laws to curb human trafficking.

Trafficking, the global picture

File image of a Nepali mother who travelled to Mumbai, India, hoping to rescue her teenage daughter from an Indian brothel.
Image: Kay Chernush, US State Dept..

Although National Human Trafficking Awareness Day is a US-based effort to recognise, and highlight, this issue — as a topic of global concern being highlighted through the United Nations, others around the world continue efforts to increase public awareness and tackle trafficking.

Forty-six women from the international group Operation Mobilization sought to raise awareness by climbing Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro. The summit is called “Uhuru Peak”, with Uhuru meaning “freedom” in Swahili. Each of the non-professional climbers raised US$10,000 to help those affected by human trafficking.

In the Middle East, several countries are reported to have problems with human traffickers recruiting unemployed gay Kenyan men to become sex slaves. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are supposedly the more-common destination countries into which Kenyans are lured with offers of high-paying jobs. However, in the United Arab Emirates — where no law prohibits trafficking, but homosexuality is illegal — the problem is compounded.

Enforcement of existing laws, and acting against trafficking, are seen as key steps in reducing the activity. Showing that no country is unaffected, Northern Ireland police are currently investigating five sex trafficking cases; and, on Monday, Filipino police rescued fifteen women following a tip-off regarding women recruited, and being held, prior to being sent to work abroad.

In the Northern Ireland situation, Detective Superintendent Philip Marshall stated that fifteen men are to be contacted, suspected of having paid for sex with trafficked women. Identifying victims within the UK, or victims seeking help, is becoming more challenging with the sex industry having switched to using hotel rooms as-opposed to street corners. Many victims of trafficking are found to be unaware of where within the country they are.

In the Philippines situation, Zamboanga City police are still seeking the recruiter of the fifteen women rescued in Rio Hondo.

A range of complexities are involved in the sentencing of both those convicted of human trafficking, and their victims. In one Canadian case, 43-year-old Hungarian Lajos Domotor pled guilty to trafficking men and women into forced labor. Following being charged with conspiracy to commit human trafficking, he developed terminal stomach cancer and has been given a 10 to 15 percent chance of living five years.

In the UK, officials are seeking to detect exploitation prior to sentencing — as a counter to the high number of foreign women in jails, frequently having been victims of trafficking. One in seven women prisoners across England and Wales are foreign, with the primary offenses being drug or immigration-related. A report into the issue recommends sentencing decisions should consider the role of women, and of coercion, in such cases.

Artists also have a special role to play in the education and awareness of the public. The first opera about sex trafficking will premiere in Liverpool, England, on March 7. Anya17 was composed by Adam Gorb with a libretto written by Ben Kaye. Performers will come from Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic contemporary music ensemble 10/10. Funding for the production was provided in part by the United Nations.

Sources

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