A new report released by the Egyptian coalition opposition group Kifaya on 4 July says that corruption has infiltrated all aspects of Egyptian society and stands in the way of further social and economic development.
"This report deals with corruption in the inclusive sense," says George Ishaq, Kifaya spokesman and coordinator. "It is diverse and includes that which is seen and that which is covered up. It includes the political and the cultural as well as the economic and the social. Corruption has become a social law."
The extensive 249-page report, entitled "Corruption in Egypt: The Black Cloud is Not Disappearing", was complied by Kifaya members with information from local and international reports, information from Transparency International and the UNDP, court and legal records and Egyptian media sources.
The report takes a broad view of corruption, with sections on corruption in Egypt's privatisation programme; corruption in the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Petroleum, Finance and Antiquities; and a section on the interference of security forces in public life.
It also discusses the use of political influence to gain government contracts and the rampant system of bribes which citizens must pay to navigate governmental bureaucracy.
Ishaq considers addressing the issue of corruption a primary step in political change in Egypt. "We are looking at the issue from the perspective that all political change must start from the top. This country's corruption started from the top and all possibilities for fighting corruption are doomed to failure until we can assure the end of this regime."
He also mentioned the effects of corruption on Egypt's social and economic development. "Corruption, as the report shows, is the primary reason for the loss of so many development opportunities and for the destruction of public associations. It is impossible for the nation to rise up without putting an end to it."
While Egypt’s Ministry of Interior declined to comment on Kifaya’s damning report, the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) has in the past conceded that corruption is a problem in the country. “We admit that corruption is an issue and that it has to be addressed,” said Mahmoud Mohieddin, minister of investment, at the NDP’s annual conference last October. “We want to be frank about the problem. We also want to be frank about how we are dealing with it.” He added that the NDP was in the process of drafting "a comprehensive programme to eliminate corruption".
Egypt earned a score of 3.4 out 10 in the Berlin-based Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index, which is compiled though surveys from 10 institutions. This put the country at 70th out of 158 nations surveyed. While this is a vast improvement over the 1.1 that Egypt earned in the late 90s, Egypt still falls below the 5-point mark, above which a country is said not to have a serious problem with corruption. Other countries that received the same score include Syria, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
Ahmad al-Sayed al-Naggar, an economic analyst with the governmental al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, also believes that the money siphoned off by corruption hampers development. "Quite simply, the funds that are stolen from the public domain should be put into the public budget to be spent on social programmes that will benefit the poor, and spent on public health and education."
Al-Naggar also notes that money lost through corruption is not re-invested in the economy in ways that will help create jobs for Egypt's unemployed, which he estimates at 8 million.
"If this money were not being stolen, it could be used for new investments that could create jobs for the unemployed and help them help themselves," he said. "It could give them a constant source of income through honest employment instead of creating a breeding ground for violence, crime and political extremism or leading to a tragically impoverished human existence."