Egyptians Angry over Corruption among Officials

By Ap | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 1, 1994 | Go to article overview

Egyptians Angry over Corruption among Officials


Ap, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


Slipping a government clerk a little cash to navigate the bureaucracy is a way of life in Cairo, but even some Egyptians are stunned by what's been reported lately.

Two men, each of whom used to be interior minister - the country's top law enforcement officer - trade allegations of graft. A contractor is accused of raking in millions by bribing officials, including an aide to President Hosni Mubarak.

Denials have been vehement, and editors of newspapers that printed such stories are being sued for libel. The government says it has ordered investigations in some cases.

High living by public officials is particularly suspicious in a country where many college graduates earn the equivalent of only $30 a month and 2 million people are unemployed in a labor force of 15 million.

Even if the officials paid for their $40,000 apartnments in the contractor scandal instead of receiving them as presents, where did they get the money? How has the petty bribery of clerks and police officers blossomed into deals involving millions of dollars?

Opposition newspapers and intellectuals say corruption is rife throughout Egyptian society, infecting government, culture, business, even the battle with Islamic extremists.

"The wide extent of corruption is definitely one main reason encouraging the spread of extremism," said Mohammed Hassanein Heikal, a leading political writer and historian.

Radical Muslim groups cite government corruption as a principal reason they want a strict Islamic state. They argue that the young and poor have no chance in a climate of payoffs and favoritism.

Bribery is not new to Egypt. Nineteenth-century visitors wrote of paying off petty officials. Today, citizens hand one or two Egyptian pounds (30 to 60 cents) to a police officer to take care of a minor traffic violation, or to a clerk to speed approval of documents from business licenses to birth certificates.

"A bribe is almost like a tax . . . but without being officially approved," explained Magdi Amer, 25, a old government employee.

The tales unfolding in opposition newspapers involve far bigger fish. …

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