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BOB MOON: BP this morning announced it is “very likely” that it will evacuate it’s employees from Libya as violent protests rock that country. And oil prices have hit a two-and-a-half year high based on fears of instability in Libya — which accounts for 2 percent of the global supply.
While Libya’s protesters credit the revolution in Egypt as inspiration — life in Egypt may be actually settling down. Banks and stock exchanges in Cairo reopened yesterday. And this morning, U.S. officials arrived in Egypt to begin talks with the new government.
Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman is with us this morning from Cairo. Hi Mitchell.
MITCHELL HARTMAN: Hi Bob.
MOON: So how is the news out of Libya playing there in Egypt?
HARTMAN: People are definitely following it. That said, there is a lot of empty desert between Cairo and the Libyan border, and that border’s been closed. Libyan exiles here have been rallying in front of their country’s embassy. And actually just this morning outside my hotel. I have to say, though, while the sounds I’m hearing from all these video clips from Libya on Al-Jazeera are of gunfire, here in Cairo, the sound of revolution sounds more like this:
MOON: Now that could be any rush hour here in LA which is — I take it — your whole point.
HARTMAN: Right, what we’re getting is traffic. Lots of traffic. What passes for normal traffic in Egypt — which means it’s chaotic, it’s horrible, it’s loud, there’s taxis and busses, even donkey carts on the roads. Remember, the unrest here closed banks and schools, a lot of factories. No one was going to work. No body was going out shopping. Yesterday was the day that the military and the pro-democracy people all said “Egypt’s open for business.” So bank opened. There were some lines by not too bad. Food prices at street stands are virtually the same as before. All shop are offering these hugs sales to get people spending again.
MOON: So if this is the beginning of maybe what a post-revolution recovery looks like there, how long until everything truly does get back to normal in Egypt?
HARTMAN: There’s still a long way to go, no doubt about it. To begin with, there’s still tanks at every major intersection. Magda Kandil runs the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies in Cairo.
MAGDA KANDIL: Obviously we’re all concerned about the economic loss, things have not stabilized yet. And particularly there were a number of strikes that the country witnessed and the stock market closure. These are very concerning matters that are likely to have some impact on economic activity.
And to give you a sense — the country’s lost nearly $2 billion from this crisis, more than a million tourists packed up and just left. You know, look, this country has actually been growing really well, even in the global recession before the revolution it was expected to be up six percent. And they’ll be lucky if they grow at all this year.
MOON: Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman joining us from Cairo. Thanks.
HARTMAN: You’re welcome.
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