Mubarak spurred privatization reforms in the 1990s that helped grow Egypt’s economy, but they did not trickle down because he also tolerated – if not encouraged – the kleptocracy of the Egyptian elites, said David Schenker, an Egypt expert at the Washington Institute and a former Pentagon Middle East official.
As a result, people have come to associate a free market economy with crony capitalism,” Schenker said.
“There is no longer respect or fear of Egypt,” he said. “Mubarak presided over this.”
Ultimately, the thieving weakened Egypt’s economy and undercut its regional influence. Whereas in the 1990s Mubarak could strong-arm Arafat, in the 2000s he was barely able to get the Palestinian polity, split between Hamas Islamists and Palestinian Authority moderates, to heed his pleas for a unified front.
Additionally Mubarak, while working closely with the United States to advance strategy, promoted a “safety valve” of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism through the state-controlled media. The resulting resentments have exacerbated resentments among Egyptians of the West and suspicions of Israel.
These resentments also were the result of successive U.S. administrations that failed to make democratic reforms conditional on the billions of dollars Egypt was receiving in defense assistance, much to the chagrin of lawmakers from both parties in Congress.