Friday, April 11, 2008

Have mercy

"Aish! Aish!" -- Bread! Bread! -- the stubble-faced men yelled, shouting through the grillwork at bakers laboring over a dented, gas-fired oven. Cursing and pushing, the men thrust crumpled currency through the spaces in the grille.

"Have mercy! Have mercy on us!" a woman in a dusty black head scarf and abaya yelled.

Egypt's economy is expected to grow by 7 percent this fiscal year and is attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment. BMW, one of many luxury carmakers active in Egypt, reported a 20 percent annual growth in sales here last year.

But the percentage of Egyptians living below the poverty line -- meaning they make less than $2 a day -- rose from 16.7 percent in 2000 to 19.6 percent in 2005, according to the World Bank. In all, about 40 percent of Egypt's population lives in poverty, the World Bank said. Strikes by workers demanding higher wages have spiked since last summer.

Ellen Knickmeyer on the inequalities of Egypt

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