by Jim Davies, 2/16/2011
It's rumored to be of the order of fifty billion dollars, but the figures are tossed around the media with nary a source, so it could be thirty million or sixty billion; nobody, except Mubarak, really knows how much he's salted away during his 30-year ruling spree. Whatever it is, Egyptians would like it back. There are eighty million of them, so if the loot is forty billion and it were divided equally, each person would have a $500 windfall, which would be very handy given that their per-capita GDP is only $6,200.
Heads of state pay themselves well, at taxpayer expense; ours "earns" $400,000 a year, but Egypt's I wasn't able to find. Suppose he got something similar. What is then the possibility that during 30 years he saved up that much? Given that he was pampered with residences and transportation and feasts, it's not hard to imagine he could save $100,000 a year. Total over three decades, $3 million. We're still short by three orders of magnitude.
But suppose further that he hired the world's best investment advisors - and he would be well able to do so. By my calculation, if he had invested that annual $100K at an ROI of 50%, it would have compounded to over $38 billion. Surprising, indeed; but that's the power of 30-year compounding.
Is a sustained 50% ROI reasonable to assume? - yes, for the world's best, I'd say it's not impossible.
Therefore, the existence of a $40B stash does not on its own prove that the former President did anything outside the law he wrote and administered. He may very well have, but that case remains to be made. Therefore, given that he may have kept those laws, what basis is there for taking the money back? - none. Yet.
This example points up the difficulty of what to do with the top villains, after government has evaporated when none of its employees show up for work. They will have been responsible for an almost incalculable amount of harm; financial deprivation, certainly, of all they ruled; and more important yet, the non-cash aspects of denial of liberty, for example the punishment of innocents and the enormous damage done to childrens' minds over eight generations of indoctrination in government schools. Can anything compensate for this appalling wreckage?
No justice is served by punishment; that will be off the table. How about recompense? - it will, I fear, be far, far too little and the cost of proving what's due and from whom will eat up most of it. Better simply to let it go. No unrepentant government hack will ever live a shameless day again. Be he or she ever so rich with his loot, many will refuse to trade with him; he will be a pariah. As governments implode all across the world, there will be fewer and fewer places where he can go and be treated with respect. He will live out his days friendless, despised by all he meets.
Oddly enough, there is a live if partial precedent for this. After South Africa ended apartheid in 1993, an unexpected decision was taken: amnesty. There had been so much savagery during that era, that if attempts were made to get justice done, the bitterness would never end. In one of the most enlightened choices of the 20th Century, if killers and torturers and tyrants came forward and admitted their misdeeds, the matter was closed. Bishop Desmond Tutu was behind the move, and he deserves much credit. So it will be, I believe, after E-Day.