King Salman Egypt Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

L’Égypte à vendre

LE CAIRE – La semaine dernière, la visite en Égypte du roi Salmane d’Arabie saoudite a débouché sur 22 accords, dont un accord pétrolier de 22 milliards de dollars, qui permettront de soutenir une économie égyptienne moribonde. Mais la munificence a un prix. L’Égypte a dû renoncer à deux îlots de la mer Rouge que l’Arabie saoudite lui avait cédés en 1950. Cette rétrocession met en danger le récit de la direction égyptienne qui, présentant le pays comme un acteur majeur de la scène régionale, apparaît aujourd’hui comme un mensonge. En réalité, l’Égypte ne parvient même pas à résoudre les problèmes intérieurs que lui pose une population qui augmente rapidement et dépend d’allocations dont l’État n’a plus les moyens – une situation que les djihadistes exploitent avec succès. Comment le pays en est-il arrivé là ?

Lorsque Méhémet Ali vainquit les Britanniques en 1807, l’Égypte devint le premier pays arabe à gagner de facto son indépendance. Mais le petit-fils d’Ali, Ismaïl, dilapida cette indépendance par une politique prodigue, inaugurant une dépendance à l’assistance extérieure qui persiste encore à ce jour.

Ismaïl fut d’abord contraint, en 1875, de vendre les parts du pays dans le canal de Suez, afin de combler son déficit budgétaire. Mais la transaction ne suffit pas à stopper l’hémorragie des finances publiques et les débiteurs européens envoyèrent une commission chargée d’assurer les remboursements. En 1877, plus de 60% des recettes de l’Égypte étaient consacrés au service de la dette. En 1882, les Britanniques prirent le contrôle du pays pour protéger leurs investissements.

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