COLUMN: Egypt’s democracy a delicate entity

What pure joy Egyptians must be feeling. You can see it on their faces as satellites beam footage of that country’s birth of democracy around the world. Imagine the feeling of empowerment and accomplishment those people have earned after putting their lives on the line for weeks to bring down Hosni Mubarak and his autocracy.

They demanded freedom, they demanded a voice and they demanded transparency and they got it.

It was wonderful to see the emotion as citizens told news cameras what it was like to be given the gift of freedom and of choice, to earn the backing of the military and to demand Mubarak return the money of the citizens, money he allegedly kept for himself, to help pay for better wages and a better life for all of the people of Egypt.

Democracy in its infancy is a beautiful and, in the case of Egypt, delicate entity – a great weight held up so high on such a breakable thread.

So much can go wrong.

Egypt’s defining moment will come in the fall, when the country’s Armed Forces Supreme Council gives up its temporary position of running the country to the winner of the election.

Until then, the shape of the new Egypt will take place through strikes and more protests as its citizens shed 30 years under the rule of a tyrant and breathe their first breaths of democracy while creating an open and just society. Just hours after Mubarak’s fall, workers from all sectors of the economy flooded the streets, striking against virtually anybody in authority.

Even the police, who just days before Mubarak had Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif read his resignation, fought against the crowds, demanded better pay. They were heard – low ranking officers all had their pay doubled immediately, according to a CBC report.

But now comes the hard part. How Egypt re-invents itself will be an interesting process and one watched very closely not only by other democracies, but by other Middle East nations currently led by autocracies and monarchies.


I’ve continued to monitor British Petroleum almost nine months after its Macondo well exploded, killing 11 workers and, over the course of the summer, spewed five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

At the time, many economic experts predicted the $40-50 billion price tag affixed to the clean up and programs required to get Gulf communities back on their feet would sink the oil giant.

A few short months later, both the oil is gone (oil eating micro organisms … really?) and so is BP’s financial headache.

The company liquidated $38 billion worth of its assets to pay for the disaster, which barely put a dent in its bottom line or its share prices. Last year, BP generated more than $230 billion in sales revenue and its current assets are worth more than that.

Even its shares are up more than 50 per cent since last June. Definitely not a company that is hurting financially and it certainly isn’t going away anytime soon.

I applaud the company’s resilience and its ability to get back on its feet, but it will be telling how it handles itself in the future to prevent similar environmental disasters.

As the old saying goes, making a profit is not a bad thing. It’s how those profits are used that determines where a company’s heart (and head) is. Hopefully BP uses its resources to improve technology and policy to prevent future disasters. If not for the environment and communities it destroyed, then at least for the 11 BP employees who died in the initial explosion.

Nanaimo News Bulletin