The Business of Politics



The increasing role of business in politics has become a global phenomenon, including in the Arab world. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al-Hariri was a prominent businessmen.1 In Kuwait businessmen have long enjoyed a striking hegemony as they rose to high positions in government,2 and in Egypt the term Ragal Al-‘Amal (businessmen) had already acquired a slightly seedy air by the mid-1980s. Currently, Egyptian entrepreneurs play an important role in Egyptian politics and have gradually infiltrated the NDP and the cabinet ministries.


Public Sector Economic Reform Parliamentary Election Business Elite Political Liberalization 
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    For a useful overview of the “Neomercantilists,” see Francis Fukuyama, Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity (New York: The Free Press, 1995)Google Scholar
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    An eloquent example of Sadat’s reluctance to change the regime’s outlook is the statement deputy prime minister ‘Abd Al-Razzak ‘Abd Al-Maggid made at the second NDP congress in October 1981, a few days before Sadat’s assassination, in which he announced the NDP’s definition of socialism and the role of the public sector: “It is essential to manage the public sector with a capitalist mentality and the private sector with a socialist mentality.” See Wahba Mourad Magdi, The Role of the State in the Egyptian Economy: 1945–1981 (Reading: Ithaca Press, 1994): 179.Google Scholar
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    Americans have aligned themselves with and supported the rising classes of the Sadat regime. Both the “open door” policy launched by Sadat in 1974 and American aid have served to create and strengthen new socioeconomically and politically powerful groups. The economic interests of these classes and Western capital are identical. The United States would like to market its goods in Egypt in preparation for further investment while the new class of traders and commercial agents are the axis around which such policies can be made possible. Moreover, this group’s increasing political power is indicative of the relationship of Western capitalism to the new Egyptian socioeconomic structure and has widespread implications for the country’s development. For a useful analysis of the United States’ reaction to Sadat’s infitah, see Zaalouk, Malak, Power, Class and Foreign Capital in Egypt: The Rise of the New Bourgeoise (London, New Jersey: Zed Books, 1989): 11.Google Scholar
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© Alaa Al-Din Arafat 2009

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