“WASHINGTON — The Google executive who became the hero of the Egyptian revolution cropped up at the pinnacle of international finance Friday, chiding the elites for supporting strongman Hosni Mubarak. “I actually feel like Joe the Plumber,” said Wael Ghonim, drawing laughs after his introduction on a panel at the International Monetary Fund headquarters….. Dressed in faded Levis, an open-necked striped shirt and casual loafers, Ghonim, 30, filled his billing as “Internet activist” in the roundtable discussion notably featuring IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Ghonim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, became an Internet star after administering a Facebook page that helped spark the uprising that toppled Mubarak’s regime. “To me what was happening was a crime, not a mistake,” he said. He branded the international institutions and the “elites” of the world “partners in crime” in supporting Mubarak’s regime. “A lot of people knew that things were going wrong,” he added. Wearing a wristband with the date January 25, 2011, the first day of protests that swept Mubarak from power, Ghonim said: “We wanted our dignity back.” “Egypt has cancer” and what is needed is investment and entrepreneurship, and jobs that pay a decent wage, he said. Acknowledging a “radical view,” Ghonim welcomed outside expertise and support from the international community but rejected the idea of outsiders telling Egypt how to rebuild its society………..”
Wael Ghomin was absolutely right. In fact he was a little too polite. The international bureaucrats all knew what was happening in Egypt and elsewhere. They accommodate the corrupt regimes of some countries too often. The designer-clad IBRD and IMF bureaucrats often listen to functionaries of the state, I know that firsthand, then they tailor a policy program that often is based on the input of the functionaries. They paper over flagrant corruption and policies that distort the economy and keep it stagnant. That is usually the case for countries with clout. Egypt was a country of ‘indirect’ clout because Mubarak had support on the IMF Executive Board from at least three representatives: his own (also the Gulf’s) member, the Saudi member, and often the American member. Not to mention the support of some other Executive Board members on the principle of “mutual back scratching”. Ditto for the World Bank (IBRD). They should just let the Egyptian people sort out their own problems as he said.
I recall traveling to Cairo some years ago with a potentate who told me during the flight that Egypt had changed, that I would be amazed by the ‘progress’. Needless to say, potentates don’t walk the streets of cities like Cairo the way I do. In Cairo, I saw that it had changed alright, but it had become shabbier, a much worse place than under either Nasser or Sadat. I saw many homeless people around the banks of the Nile, something that used to be rare in most of the city during my pre-Mubarak visits. The progress they were talking about was not that of the Egyptian people, but of the elite with whom the Arab potentates and the international financial organizations associated. The international bureaucrats, as I know firsthand, deal with numbers, data, not with human beings. IMF and IBRD functionaries should be made to go into town, walk the streets, see the millions living in old graveyards, without regime minders. And skip the incessant official wining and dining.