Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Train Signalmen Strike

By Khair Ragheb, Wala’ Nabil, Mohamed el-Saadani 28/ 1/ 2009

The signalmen of the Railway Authority went on strike for three hours in protest against not receiving their bonuses.
They stopped all train traffic as of 1:00 p.m. by turning the red lights all the way up to Alexandria and down to Menya, causing a large number of passengers to return their tickets and take taxis.
700 signalmen first staged a sit-in in Cairo Station before they went on strike till 3:30 p.m. when their union members told them the minister of transport promised to meet their demands within 48 hours. They threatened strike again if their demands were not met by Thursday.
Mahmoud Sami, head of the Railway Authority, said he has no budget for their demands because he had disbursed a 50% bonus two months ago. But he said he would give LE 120,000 to the 2500 signalmen.
An official source with the Ministry of Transport told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the Railway Authority will in a few days submit a proposal for salary adjustments to the minister of transport and the prime minister to be effective as of July.
For her part, Minister of Manpower Aisha Abdel Hadi said that Cabinet will discuss the problems of the railway workers next week. She was more than half an hour late for a conference on Human Resource Development organized by the American Chamber of Commerce due to the strike.

Translated from the Arabic by Eltorjoman International
Originally published in:

El-Malt Accuses Government of Wasting Public Funds and Committing Political Crimes

Gawdat el-Malt

By Emad Fouad and Mohamed Abdel Kader: 28/ 1/ 2009

Gawdat el-Malt, chairman of the Central Auditing Agency (CAA), has fiercely attacked the government during a meeting of the Plan and Budget Committee of the People's Assembly yesterday.
Replying to MP Ahmed Ezz, he said we should not compare between the U.S., European and East Asian economies and the Egyptian economy with respect to debts, budget deficit and borrowing, because those countries borrow to invest, while Egypt borrows to cover its budget deficit.

He said that the government dues on July 13, 2004 when Dr. Ahmed Nazif became Prime Minister were LE 64.8 billion and that they have jumped to LE 101 billion on June 30, 2008, of which there are LE 52 billion in customs dues, LE 2. 3 billion in sales taxes, LE 2.4 billion with the local administration units, LE 1.8 billion with the services sector, LE 6.4 billion in legal fees and fines, LE 1.2 billion with economic and press institutions and LE 600 million with the registration bureau. Malt said that the net debts on June 30, 2008 have reached LE 666.9 billion, which is 74.4% of GDP. This includes LE 487.7 billion in government debts, LE 50.1 billion in debts of institutions and LE 138.1 billion with the National Investment Bank.
The head of CAA said that the per capita domestic debt until June 30, 2008 reached LE 8527 as opposed to LE 8295last year.
He said the government's internal and external debts of one year are LE 58.6 billion, with 20% in handling fees.

Regarding the projects carried out by the government, Malt said that they are not studied thoroughly and that they are a wasting of public funds, as the cost of some such projects may jump from LE 100 million to one billion due to amendments and imprecision. “I told Dr. Nazif so and he agreed with me,” he said.

Describing all this as political crimes, Malt said: “Everyone should monitor his subordinates, and Parliament should monitor the government. As CAA is only a consultant for Parliament, it cannot refer these crimes to the Attorney General.”

Translated from the Arabic by Eltorjoman International
Originally published in:

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

UK Protest for Gaza outside the Egyptian Embassy

Palestinians brave Israeli assault to return home - 2 Jan 08

Egypt's Mubarak blocks Gaza aid convoy

CNN: Egypt is keeping journalists out of Rafah border

Gaza: 300 Yards Between Life And Death


Mathematically, it’s not a tricky equation. Politically, though, it’s a complete conundrum. I’m talking about the scenes on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing Sunday.
Aid has been kept waiting on the Egyptian side of the border.
Aid has been kept waiting on the Egyptian side of the border.

It was the morning after the start of the Israeli ground assault on Gaza. In the dark, a few hours earlier, I’d been able to make out the sound of Israeli tank tracks grinding through southern Gaza; the whoosh of missiles fired by Apache attack helicopters into targets just a few hundred yards away and the rat-a-tat of assault guns as Hamas and Israeli fighters closed in on one another.

Now, it was light, and around 30 trucks lined up at the Rafah border gates. They were piled high with much needed medical supplies for the teeming hospitals of Gaza and the mounting casualties. The aid had come from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egyptian NGOs and even Scotland. There was even an eight-strong team of Greek trauma surgeons ready to go in and rescue the dying.

It would have been a heartening sight after the madness of the night except for one major detail — the border was closed, the gates firmly shut. That medicine was going nowhere.

And that’s the simple equation. Three checkpoints and 300 yards separated life-giving supplies from the Palestinian wounded and dying. There was fuel in the trucks, drivers at the wheel and politics in the road.

Now the border has been open sporadically over the last few days for a few hours at a time to let aid in and a trickle of wounded Palestinians out (about 120 since the current hostilities began). But Sunday was not one of those days.

The Egyptian border police said they couldn’t let the trucks through because the Palestinian border guards had fled during the night. Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships, I guess, can be expected to have that effect on employees of Gaza’s Hamas government.

The Egyptians also warned it was dangerous and they couldn’t guarantee anybody’s safety. War does tend to be a risky business.

The Egyptian government, meanwhile, has said it can’t fully normalize the border between Egypt and Gaza because that needs an agreement between Hamas and its rivals in the Fatah movement, as well as the presence of European Union monitors.

And as the apologies and public hand-wringing go on, the aid is blocked and the wounded are getting sicker; the dying expiring.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is no friend of Hamas. He did very strongly condemn the Israeli ground assault in a statement Sunday. But on the Egyptian street, especially here close to the border, many Egyptians see that as little more than public bravado.

They criticize him for not sending aid through and for not letting Palestinian refugees come across, at least temporarily. They also point to the fact that two days before Israeli airstrikes began, Mubarak was hosting Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni and permitting her to issue threats against Hamas from his couch.

Now clearly I’m not a Middle Eastern expert, but as I mull the chain on the gate at the Rafah crossing, the scale of human need in Gaza seems crystal clear while political red tape is keeping the medicine from the wounded and dying.

CNN Correspondent, Karl Penhaul

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Robert Fisk: The rotten state of Egypt is too powerless and corrupt to act

There was a day when we worried about the "Arab masses" – the millions of "ordinary" Arabs on the streets of Cairo, Kuwait, Amman, Beirut – and their reaction to the constant bloodbaths in the Middle East. Could Anwar Sadat restrain the anger of his people? And now – after three decades of Hosni Mubarak – can Mubarak (or "La Vache Qui Rit", as he is still called in Cairo) restrain the anger of his people? The answer, of course, is that Egyptians and Kuwaitis and Jordanians will be allowed to shout in the streets of their capitals – but then they will be shut down, with the help of the tens of thousands of secret policemen and government militiamen who serve the princes and kings and elderly rulers of the Arab world.

Egyptians demand that Mubarak open the Rafah crossing-point into Gaza, break off diplomatic relations with Israel, even send weapons to Hamas. And there is a kind of perverse beauty in listening to the response of the Egyptian government: why not complain about the three gates which the Israelis refuse to open? And anyway, the Rafah crossing-point is politically controlled by the four powers that produced the "road map" for peace, including Britain and the US. Why blame Mubarak?
To admit that Egypt can't even open its sovereign border without permission from Washington tells you all you need to know about the powerlessness of the satraps that run the Middle East for us.
Open the Rafah gate – or break off relations with Israel – and Egypt's economic foundations crumble. Any Arab leader who took that kind of step will find that the West's economic and military support is withdrawn. Without subventions, Egypt is bankrupt. Of course, it works both ways. Individual Arab leaders are no longer going to make emotional gestures for anyone. When Sadat flew to Jerusalem – "I am tired of the dwarves," he said of his fellow Arab leaders – he paid the price with his own blood at the Cairo reviewing-stand where one of his own soldiers called him a "Pharaoh" before shooting him dead.

The true disgrace of Egypt, however, is not in its response to the slaughter in Gaza. It is the corruption that has become embedded in an Egyptian society where the idea of service – health, education, genuine security for ordinary people – has simply ceased to exist. It's a land where the first duty of the police is to protect the regime, where protesters are beaten up by the security police, where young women objecting to Mubarak's endless regime – likely to be passed on caliph-like to his son Gamal, whatever we may be told – are sexually molested by plain-clothes agents, where prisoners in the Tora-Tora complex are forced to rape each other by their guards.
There has developed in Egypt a kind of religious facade in which the meaning of Islam has become effaced by its physical representation. Egyptian civil "servants" and government officials are often scrupulous in their religious observances – yet they tolerate and connive in rigged elections, violations of the law and prison torture. A young American doctor described to me recently how in a Cairo hospital busy doctors merely blocked doors with plastic chairs to prevent access to patients. In November, the Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm reported how doctors abandoned their patients to attend prayers during Ramadan.
And amid all this, Egyptians have to live amid daily slaughter by their own shabby infrastructure. Alaa al-Aswani wrote eloquently in the Cairo paper Al-Dastour that the regime's "martyrs" outnumber all the dead of Egypt's wars against Israel – victims of railway accidents, ferry sinkings, the collapse of city buildings, sickness, cancers and pesticide poisonings – all victims, as Aswani says, "of the corruption and abuse of power". Opening the Rafah border-crossing for wounded Palestinians – the Palestinian medical staff being pushed back into their Gaza prison once the bloodied survivors of air raids have been dumped on Egyptian territory – is not going to change the midden in which Egyptians themselves live.
Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the Hizbollah secretary general in Lebanon, felt able to call on Egyptians to "rise in their millions" to open the border with Gaza, but they will not do so. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the feeble Egyptian Foreign Minister, could only taunt the Hizbollah leaders by accusing them of trying to provoke "an anarchy similar to the one they created in their own country."
But he is well-protected. So is President Mubarak.
Egypt's malaise is in many ways as dark as that of the Palestinians. Its impotence in the face of Gaza's suffering is a symbol of its own political sickness.