Abdel Fattah al-Sisi does not enjoy the support of a political party, he misses a parliamentary force behind him. Because the Parliament is not the key to control the public opinion, but the army is, his only source of political legitimacy.
Al-Sisi has the army and the army has the wealth.
And the wealth brings political influence, social authority, jobs in a recession, building patronage networks faithful to the source of interests.
Since he took power by force, the president-general has issued 263 presidential decrees. Out of these, 32 are related to the army: he increased by 10% the pension checks of the military; he authorized the Ministry of Defense to create private security companies; he awarded Lands Projects Agency, a company owned by the army founded in 1981, the power to act in the commercial sector to make profits. Obviously without paying any taxes and taking advantage of young conscripted men as free labor.
The numbers are exorbitant, a business shrouded by State secrecy which would – according to estimates from independent sources – manage 35-40% of the Gross Domestic Product. More than a third of the economy of a country of 85 million people, of which a portion is attributable to the armed forces and the other to the Ministry of Interior.
Al-Sisi denied it in an interview in 2014 and spoke of a minimum share of the national economy: no more than 2% of GDP. But two years before that, the then Deputy Minister for Financial Affairs, General Mohamed Nasr, had revealed revenues of 198 million dollars.
The army controls countless private companies, from the construction industry to agriculture, from tourism to health. Even the manufacturing of fertilizers: in November, al-Sisi announced the creation of an industry of fertilizers, entrusted to the el-Nasr company, owned by the armed forces, which will churn out a million tons a year in nine different plants.
Behind this, there is the National Service Projects Organization, a body created by the army in 1979 to meet the procurement needs of the armed forces but soon, it became so powerful that it started to sell its huge surplus in the Egyptian domestic market. It manufactures and sells everything: pasta, mineral water, gasoline, cement, refrigerators, TVs, computers.
At the same time, the army is entrusted with the most profitable infrastructure projects: the widening of the Suez Canal, $ 9 billion; the Sohag airport and the Gurghada port; bridges, stadiums, hospitals and roads; and now the mega project to transform 600 thousand hectares of desert into arable land.
The system is based on an oligopoly impossible to scratch: first, the political power, represented by government, grants contracts to companies linked to the armed forces; then those same companies produce goods and services at lower costs than those of the civil private sector, eating up much of the consumer demand.