4. Egypt: The big men get greedy
When elites control an economy, they often use their power to create monopolies and block the entry of new people and firms. This was exactly how Egypt worked for three decades under Hosni Mubarak. The government and military owned vast swaths of the economy -- by some estimates, as much as 40 percent. Even when they did "liberalize," they privatized large parts of the economy right into the hands of Mubarak's friends and those of his son Gamal. Big businessmen close to the regime, such as Ahmed Ezz (iron and steel), the Sawiris family (multimedia, beverages, and telecommunications), and Mohamed Nosseir (beverages and telecommunications) received not only protection from the state but also government contracts and large bank loans without needing to put up collateral.
Together, these big businessmen were known as the "whales." Their stranglehold on the economy created fabulous profits for regime insiders, but blocked opportunities for the vast mass of Egyptians to move out of poverty. Meanwhile, the Mubarak family accumulated a vast fortune estimated as high as $70 billion.
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