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It’s not easy being popular

The Egyptian government has a chequered record in implementing economic reforms. Praise for the success of its major anti-corruption drive and its adoption of a free-floating exchange rate at the end of January has been tempered by the introduction of capital controls only two months later.

But pushing through tough reforms is not easy for rulers who want and need to be popular. It is also difficult to win over a public that is sceptical about your every motive. Taxi drivers for instance, believe that the law requiring safety belts to be used is a conspiracy to enable the police to get rich. "Traffic is so slow there are no serious accidents, only bumps," says one cabbie. "So why must we wear these uncomfortable things? So the police can catch us and make money."

Single-party domination of politics might suppress the electoral representation of discontent but nothing can stop a Cairene from expressing his annoyance on the street. Whether it's because his passenger has no small change for the fare or because he has scraped the side of the next car while turning two lanes of traffic into three, a Cairene rarely hides his feelings. A driver will also see no problem in leisurely stepping out of a car at a red light to remove a jacket and drop it in the boot, or reversing into the oncoming traffic with the curtains in the rear window drawn.

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