Syria’s Migrant Problem

In 2011, the Arab Spring saw protest movements rising throughout the Near East in which citizens aimed to reshape their governments and end corruption, modernizing their societies and adapting to globalization. These movements had mixed results; Tunisia, for example, made a successful transition to a democratic government. The citizens of some other countries, like Syria, are facing violent consequences provoked by defiant protest. After condemnation by the Syrian government of the protests, rebel forces have taken a stand against what they see as their oppressors. The conflict has raged on for six years, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths within the country. Millions of people have fled Syria or are internally displaced, creating the largest issue in the world today: the refugee crisis.

Conflicts create many problems for the countries involved and their neighbors. The mass movement of people who feel unsafe or are forced to move to foreign countries is a primary concern in times of war, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Syrian conflict. In the past 25 years, no conflict worldwide has displaced more people than the one in Syria. At the moment, there is no end in sight: all sides are unwilling to back down after repeatedly failed ceasefire attempts and the issue has become an international one, as world powers like Russia and the United States have allied themselves with opposing sides. This tension creates a violent situation with no simple solution.

Today, Syria is not the only source country for refugees. Other countries in the Middle East and less developed countries around the world view Europe as a destination for safer living. The massive influx of refugees in Europe has prompted backlash and concerns of terrorism being spread under the veil of harmless refugees. This is the prevailing view of European nationalist groups who adopt a xenophobic attitude towards mostly harmless foreigners that want to work and live safely.

Germany, a powerful and economically prosperous member of the European Union, is a major destination country for those seeking asylum. The nation is generally open and modernized with a respectable standard of living that is attractive to displaced refugees who have faced severe hardships in their home countries. Such a large number of people suddenly entering a country does create some problems: the migrant crime rate, for example, rose more than 50% in 2016. There have been several terrorist attacks in the country recently, killing and wounding dozens. The fact that some of the attackers were refugees from Middle Eastern countries only benefits the position of conservative Europeans who are against letting in so many refugees.

The violent conflict at home has threatened the lives of many Syrians and forced them to seek comfortable living elsewhere in the world. The violent conflict at home has displaced millions of people internally and moved even more people to foreign areas, particularly Europe, where they face discrimination and hostility from locals. As harsh as it is, this treatment is better than the constant violence and warfare that is endured in major Syrian cities as the government and various rebel groups battle for control of the country. Unfortunately, there is no clear end in sight, and Syrian citizens are forced to cope with the severe hardships brought on by this conflict.

SisiCare: The Healthcare Crisis in Egypt

Recently in the United States, healthcare has garnered the public’s attention as a contentious issue with President Trump’s eponymous policy, Trumpcare. Access to good healthcare, of course, concerns other countries around the world. In particular, Egypt has struggled with a lack of universal coverage and medicinal shortages. Pharmacists, who sympathize with the suffering of their ailing neighbors, cannot provide relief to those in need of certain drugs. Some have turned to the black market for medications, but those supplies are often too expensive and, as pharmacies have experienced, can also be limited in number.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/egyptians-cannot-afford-buy-medicines-132016227
http://www.middleeasteye.net/in-depth/features/egyptians-cannot-afford-buy-medicines-132016227

What is the cause of Egypt’s healthcare crisis? President Sisi’s economic reform plans of November 2016 play a direct role, in addition to poor government aid in healthcare and the continuing prevalence of Egypt’s informal economic sector.

In order to work toward attaining a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, Sisi’s administration had to float the Egyptian pound last November, a move which sunk the currency’s value compared to the U.S. dollar. This action, in turn, brought about drastic inflation in numerous sectors of the Egyptian economy. The annual inflation rate rose from 13.6% in October to 19.4% in November after the reform.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-grapples-with-drug-shortage-brought-on-by-currency-devaluation-1481452381#_=_
https://www.wsj.com/articles/egypt-grapples-with-drug-shortage-brought-on-by-currency-devaluation-1481452381#_=_

One result of this inflation of the Egyptian pound is high import costs for pharmaceutical companies. These costs are so high, in fact, that many in the industry have stopped importing drugs and ingredients altogether, as they are unable to turn a profit while remaining within the Health Ministry’s firm price caps on drugs sold to consumers.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypts-annual-urban-consumer-price-inflation-jumps-233-pct-december-11272397
http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypts-annual-urban-consumer-price-inflation-jumps-233-pct-december-11272397

The current issue of drug shortages and inflation does not fully encapsulate the difficulties that Egyptians face with their healthcare system. Most of the healthcare that Egyptians receive is not paid for by the government; rather, citizens are often left to foot the bill with out-of-pocket payments. Egypt’s lack of government support is one of the most severe cases of nonuniversal healthcare compared to the other Arab countries.

http://arabdevelopmentportal.com/blog/direct-personal-healthcare-spending-and-its-impact-poverty-arab-countries
http://arabdevelopmentportal.com/blog/direct-personal-healthcare-spending-and-its-impact-poverty-arab-countries

Due to this responsibility that Egyptians must take on, researchers have found that many people in Egypt endure what they call “catastrophic health payments.” Direct civilian payments do not only account for most of the healthcare sector: these expenses also account for a noteworthy portion of civilians’ total spending. More than 20% of the population spends 10% of their total expenditure on healthcare, and around 7% of the population spends 40% of their expenditure, when food is not accounted for, on these health payments. Compared to other populations of similar income levels, Egyptians fare the worst.

http://www.mdpi.com/2227-7099/3/4/216/htm
http://www.mdpi.com/2227-7099/3/4/216/htm

To exacerbate the lack of government funding, a significant number of workers in Egypt make a living within the informal sector. Within this “shadow economy,” laborers lose the potential benefits of health insurance coverage. Although the informal economy has generally been declining in the past few decades, its mark on Egypt’s economy is still striking. Among other consequences of such a large percentage of GDP coming from the informal sector, the lack of access to government-financed healthcare persists.

https://poseidon01.ssrn.com (Working Paper no. 6424)
https://poseidon01.ssrn.com (Working Paper no. 6424)

Is all hope lost, then, for healthcare in Egypt? With regard to the recent medication shortages, these appear to exist only in the short term as a result of the shock of Sisi’s economic reforms. In fact, the inflation brought about by the government’s decision to float the currency seems to be coming down.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-15/why-28-inflation-may-still-not-warrant-an-egypt-rate-increase
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-15/why-28-inflation-may-still-not-warrant-an-egypt-rate-increase

As the pound gains ground, the cost of imports will return to reasonable rates, hopefully to low enough levels to revive the pharmaceutical industry. Even though pharmacists may begin to restock their shelves and bring relief to their neighbors, the broader issues with Egypt’s healthcare system should not go unnoticed. Egypt is far from a universal healthcare system—even if this level of involvement is not Egypt’s end goal, the people need and deserve some improvements in government assistance. SisiCare, evidently more so than its American counterpart, has quite some refinements to be made.

Hope for Egypt’s Declining Tourism Industry?

What should be an industry booming from its rich historical sites and culture is now a place where you can find yourself alone inside the tomb of one of Egypt’s greatest rulers. So why has Egypt become a place where only the most unwavering travellers are willing to visit? Many reasons have affected this, the crashes of Metrojet 7k9268 and EgyptAir flight 804, terrorism threats, and political unrest.  

debris

Since these incidents have caused many countries to warn their citizens sternly against travelling to Egypt , the country is seeing a decrease in its international travel. Although the threats are still rated “high” by the Foreign Office, efforts to enhance the safety of tourists and the industry are being put into effect.

Since 2011, Egypt has seen the threat of revolution, a military coup that ended the rule of Hosni Mubarak and overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the crashes of two airliners, and several terrorist attacks.

00-egypt-coup-2013-anti-morsi-07-07-13

Tourism makes up 11.4 percent of the country’s GDP, and with these incidents crippling many tourists’ confidence in visiting major historical sites and cities, there is little income flowing from one of Egypt’s main sources of wealth. With the lack of tourists, funding for museums and other sites has declined. With the decrease in activity and increase in price for many attractions, even fewer tourists are willing to pay. In 2015, Egypt lost over a billion dollars in revenue after the industry declined by 15 percent.

empty sun loungers

Throughout 2016, tourism rates decreased by 40 percent, making everyday life for working Egyptians more expensive. The industry makes up a large portion of Egyptian economy, and with it becoming only a fraction of what it used to be, the economy is worsening more and more each day.

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 10.14.51 AM

This economic decline has caused many people to have to close up their shops and restaurants because prices keep skyrocketing, and has even subsidized goods like sugar and rice. The country may have to devalue its currency for a second time this year, all while a loan was approved for 12 billion dollars from the IMF to help pull Egypt out of economic crisis.

Less funding for historical attractions means less safety and security for those visiting them. In June of 2016, the Karnak temple hosting the statues of Ramses IV and Queen Nefertari was attacked by a suicide bomber.

Statues of Ramses II as Osiris in Karnak Temple, Luxor (Thebes) Egypt.
Statues of Ramses II as Osiris in Karnak Temple, Luxor (Thebes) Egypt.

Incidents like this bring more fear for international visitors, as well as poor road conditions and the turmoil brewing in North Sinai. These problems are concerning, and many foreign countries have advised their citizens to be wary of travelling to Egypt. The UK and Russia have banned all direct air flights and several Western countries, including the United States, have placed travel bans and advisories.

There still could be a silver lining, however. Egypt’s tourism minister, Yehia Rashed, has created a “Six-Point Plan” to renew the crippled economy. This new plan aims to work with international tourism organizations, enhance the infrastructure, advance service and product levels to meet international standards, attract foreign investors, and develop eco-friendly commodities. Rashed has stated that these goals are “ambitious” but he believes that in order for the tourism industry to rise again, ambition is a good thing. This new plan will help initiate a focus on the most important factors in reinvigorating Egypt’s most affluent source.