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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

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deny that the use he has made of it, as an instrument of repression, has been, free from all excessive harshness. But he himself would probably be the first to admit that, however indispensable so long as the Party of Independence held the field with its war-cry of " Down with the Protectorate," it is a singularly clumsy instrument for dealing with the practical problems of government, which are none the less pressing because they have nothing to do with the political controversies of the hour.
One* of these problems arose suddenly and in a very acute form in the first months of 1920 out of an appalling rise in the price of foodstuffs, and especially of those foodstuffs upon which the poorer classes in Egypt live almost exclusively. It was partly due to the general rise in prices all the world over, and partly to the diminishing production of cereals in Egypt itself, where the promise of extravagant profits has induced many of the large landowners to put an excessive proportion of their land under cotton instead of cereals. The rise in the price of foodstuffs had caused some anxiety during the later years of the war, for amongst the urban working classes and the landless labourers in the rural districts it had been by no means covered by a general and sometimes not inconsiderable rise in wages. Already in 1917 Dr. Wilson, of the Kasr-el-Aini Hospital in Cairo, a recognised authority on the conditions of life and nourishment amongst the poorer classes, estimated at two millions the number of men, women, and children who were seriously underfed. Nor did the end of the war bring the expected relief, and prices continued to go up after the Armistice. But it was hoped that its effects had been to a great extent countered by a further readjustment of wages. The Egyptian Government itself recognised the necessity of granting an increase of 60 per cent, to all its officials, which would, however, have been more effective had it been so graduated as to afford greater proportionate relief to the small employees who stood most in need of assistance. Anyhow, towards the end of 1919 the worst of State who to rely upon themselves. Governors and sub-governors do not know where to look for guidance, and                            ^