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Ousted like an Egyptian

Almost three weeks after protestors first took to the streets, Egypt is finally free of Hosni Mubarak's rule. Katie Morley investigates how the economic consequences stretch further than its border
Commercial awareness
Politics and economics

After 18 days of sudden and unexpected protests in Cairo, Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak was finally ousted by the military. But as he refused to let go of his 20-year legacy, the economy of Egypt crumbled around him - with dire consequences for neighbouring countries and emerging economies across the globe.

Prior to the riots, Mubarak's government had a relatively healthy £36 billion in foreign reserves as well as £21 billion in additional assets. While there were no immediate danger of financial crisis if the riots had been short-lived, experts say that the prolonged span of the chaos is likely to have serious financial consequences in the medium term. Chief economist at Banque Saudi Fransi John Sfakianakis said: "The war chest is going to be depleted if this situation continues for several weeks, rather than a few days". But it wasn't over in a few days, spiralling further out of control as Mubarak dug his nails deeper into infected wounds.

There was an instant economic effect. Investors, and wealthy middle-class Egyptian citizens, moved their money out of the country and the country also suffered from disruption to tourism - which generates a significant proportion of its income. Last year, Egyptian tourism brought in $11.6 billion, but as numerous foreign countries have been evacuating their citizens from Egypt and travel companies cancelling Egyptian holidays, tourism in the country has ground to a sharp halt - along with the associated revenue.

In response to growing security concerns, the government closed Egyptian stock markets and their re-opening is expected to be delayed. In the meantime, the Egyptian pound is weakening. Egypt is now stuck in a Catch-22 scenario. If it spends enough to keep the Egyptian pound stable it will use up its reserves too quickly, but if it tactically allows the pound to fall further it would cause panic in the market.

Neighbouring Jordan is facing a similar situation - a country also reliant on foreign investment and tourism. Jordan is already fragile after a tough 12 months ending in a record deficit of $2 billion, and with growing foreign debt. Those investing in Jordan also have reason for concern - the effects of the protests in Egypt and turmoil in their own government this month have led to falling Standard & Poor's ratings for many Jordanian companies.

Even worse, these upheavals in the Middle East have had consequences that have stretched far further afield. Combined with a coincidal rise in oil prices to over $100 per barrel, they have generated anxiety in those investing in emerging markets across the world. Over the past year, these nations (in particular the BRICs) have continued to excite investors, attracting record funds of $95 billion. However, they now appear to be shifting over to developed countries, marking what experts are saying could well be the beginning of the end of the bull market in emerging economies. Events in Egypt may well come to be seen as the tipping point which prompted investors to make this significant shift.

With Mubarak gone, Egyptians all over the country are celebrating. The worst is certainly over, and the outcome welcomed by the vast majority of the country's citizens. However, the former-president's stubborn stand has left the country with an uncertain economic stretch ahead of it. This change of government may be a fresh start for Egypt- but quite how itss new leadership will pick up the pieces is unclear.


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