Mubarak and the business community

As the nation reacts to Mubarak’s show of defiant delusion, just a thought about a group that has been largely silent thus far: the business community. Although we have learnt much over the past weeks about Egypt’s high levels, we have read little about a section of society who live in a great deal of comfort. Tourism and finance – two sectors that are being badly hit by this uprising – line an awful lot of purses, and whilst the demonstrations continue, stratospheric sums of money are being lost. Omar Suleiman has claimed that over ¢1 billion has been lost in tourist revenue and although this figure is difficult to verify, such pronouncements cannot fail to worry those at the top. Of course there is now the added worry of what might happen to the Suez Canal as as workers from 6 corporations strike for the second night in a row.

Tonight’s speech must surely mark the point at which Mubarak’s support amongst wealthy elites starts to crumble. In previous days, a salient strategy for ensuring a return to stability may simply have been to wait the protests out. But the strategic calculation must now change.  The anger and chaos that Mubarak’s words have unleashed will be interpreted as a clear threat to stability, and one that will not diminish until he is gone. In this light, the FT are carrying an interesting quotation from Mohamed El-Erian, the PIMCO chief executive and quite possibly the best known Egyptian in finance:

Things are extremely tense in Cairo after the speech by President Mubarak. It has greatly disappointed millions of Egyptians and made them extremely angry, and understandably so.

Egypt has now entered an extremely dangerous period. There will be massive street protests tomorrow (Friday).

Absent credible regime change, the country risks slipping into violence, exposing hundreds of thousands of citizens to harm and significantly aggravating geo-political risk.

If his days weren’t already numbered, losing the support of such an influential community will surely plant the final nail in his coffin.

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