As Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sworn in as Egypt's new president, the poor long for help

Jun 09 2014, 11:12 IST
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SummaryA few hundred meters from the fluttering flags, patriotic songs and dancing crowds outside the constitutional court where Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in as Egypt's president on Sunday, the mood was decidedly downbeat.

A few hundred meters from the fluttering flags, patriotic songs and dancing crowds outside the constitutional court where Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was sworn in as Egypt's president on Sunday, the mood was decidedly downbeat.

In the Dar el-Salam slum, frowning, pensive men sat on stools on a cracked sidewalk surrounded by crumbling bare brick buildings, hoping to be picked up by contractors, their hammers and picks beside them.

The lucky ones get a day of back-breaking work for meagre pay.

Unemployment, low wages and poverty triggered the 2011 revolt that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak but delivered few tangible benefits, making Egyptians sceptical of their leaders.

"The revolution happened and we haven't seen a thing. I hope the situation will improve, but God only knows," said Ahmed Mohamed, 57, his face worn by 30 years of toiling on construction sites to try to support his three children.

Stagnation has dragged on since former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ousted Mohamed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood last summer after mass protests against his rule. While official figures put unemployment at around 13 percent, the real figure is widely believed to be far higher.

The calls for bread, freedom and social justice which fired up the revolt that removed Mubarak and rang out against Mursi could also become Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's nightmare if he does not move fast to fix high unemployment and a widening budget deficit.

The unemployed day labourers sit on the same stools, on the same sidewalk, year after year. None seemed confident Sisi is the leader who will finally reach out to them.

HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF?

Egypt's Gulf Arab allies Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have given Egypt more than $12 billion in cash and petroleum products since Mursi's fall.

But none seems to have trickled down to the poor, who represent one in four of the population living on less than $1.65 a day.

Some, like Ghazzawi Mostafa, a 26-year-old father of two, fear history is repeating itself: domination by the wealthy while the less fortunate go unnoticed.

"The state is still the same. We're always the bums sitting on the sides of the street," said Mostafa. He makes around 200 Egyptian pounds ($27.97) a month on odd jobs.

Officials forecast economic growth at just 3.2 percent in the fiscal year that begins July 1, well below levels needed to crate enough jobs for a rapidly growing population of

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