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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

174                   THE EGYPTIAN PROBLEM                 CHAP.
life. No other country presents as Egypt does the strange spectacle of large foreign communities dwelling in its midst, and to a great extent outside and above its own laws, who discharge, because the Egyptians have never learnt to discharge them, many and not the least important of the functions on which economic life depends. Even the new Western-educated middle class has utterly failed hitherto to prove its capacity or indeed to take any practical interest in the higher forms of commerce, or industry, or finance. There is no important business, no great industrial undertaking, no big bank, no shipping or insurance company conducted by Egyptians. On the rare occasions on which Egyptians have attempted anything of the sort, their enterprise has failed lamentably, or more often remained stillborn. It is not that they lack the necessary capital, for they invest freely in land and house property. It is difficult to discover the reasons for this arrested development. The Nationalists put it down to the blight of " foreign domination." But what, then, of Bombay, for instance, where British rule has not prevented Parsees and Mahomedans and Hindus competing, often very successfully, with the British in every form of modern enterprise ? Whatever the causes of that arrested development in Egypt, the result is only too clear. The economic life of Egypt has been thrown entirely into the hands of foreigners, and of foreigners upon whom the Capitulations confer a privileged position such as no foreign residents enjoy in any European country. Of Alexandria, which is the economic nerve-centre of Egypt, it may be said with far more truth than of Egypt as a whole that it is a bit of Europe in Africa.
Each of the great European communities which, through the default of the Egyptians themselves, constitute to-day the chief factors in the commercial, industrial, and financial life of Egypt is itself an imperium in imperio., with extensive rights of its own and with only very limited obligations towards the country out of which it makes its living. Several of these communities arehave gone far to remove the sense of bitterness. After all the Syrian expedition would have been scarcely feasible without Egyptian labour and Egyptian supplies, and some expression of gratitude would not have marred its glory. But the saving word was never spoken ; and the payments due from the military authorities continued to lag for months behind, and the ugly past                    towns, the Central Government merely making certain