A week after its worst riots in a quarter-century, Egypt appears to be in a state of economic and political confusion that is widely believed to have weakened the position of President Anwar Sadat.
Sadat's response to the disorders was to commit the government to a spending program it cannot afford - "Borrowing from the second half of the year to pay for the first half," as one specialist put it - and to renew pleas for help from Egypt's richer neighbors.
Egyptian calls for more aid from Arab countries have brought pledges of support, but no actual cash, from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other wealthy states. Sudan pledged $5 million worth of food and aid, including several thousand camels - a move that distressed some Egyptians who dislike the idea that their country needs help from a place they regard as a primitive backwater.
Although calm has returned, many Egyptian and foreign analysts fear that the riots' success in forcing the government to scrap vital parts of its budget reform from plan will encourage mob action against unpopular measures in the future.
This fear apparently underlay yesterday's decision to ban protest demonstrations as well as strikes, despite a public pledge from Sadat that there would be "no going back" on Egypt's path of political liberalization.
More than 1,300 people were arrested as the security forces announced the uprooting of several hitherto unknown Communist organizations that were said to have exploited an outburst of popular discontent and escalated it into a major crisis of burning, looting and death.
This has pleased rightist factions in Egypt and won praise from the conservative Arab monarchies. But a side effect has been a new bitterness in Egypt's relations with the Soviet Union, which Sadat has been seeking to improve.
When the disorders began Jan. 18, experienced observers of Egyptian affairs predicted that Sadat and his aides would use the threat of Communist activity here and the danger of instability to pry more economic support out of the conservative Arab states.
The Egyptians did just that, getting a generally sympathetic response but prompting a Kuwait newspaper to charge that the crisis had been trumped up to "scare the oil states."
Sadat was scheduled to address the country today for the first time since the riots, but the speech was postponed at least unil next week.
Diplomatic sources speculated that the reason for the postponement was to give Sadat time to convert the promises of help from the oil states into actual commitments, so he will have some good news to announce. A parliamentary committee has reported that egypt needs nearly $1.5 billion in additional grants from those countries to carry it through this year.
Expectations that heads would roll in the government after the riots have not been borne out so far. Sadat rebuilt his Cabinet after his re-election last fall specifically to get action on the country's appalling economic problems. The budget proposals that sparked the rioting were the new Cabinet's first real test.
Abdel Moneim Kaissounl, the deputy prime minister, for economic and financial affairs, offered his resignation, but it was turned down by Premier Mamdouh Salem.
The only known political casualty is Sadat's brother-in-law, Mahmoud Abu Wafia, who was eased out as secretary general of the Arab Socialist Organization of Egypt, the dominant centrist political party. The party's parliamentary bloc criticized the budget program after the riots but reportedly had accepted it and failed to warn of its dangerous potential when the members were briefed beforehand.
Kaissouni's team remains in place, but its credibility may have been damaged. They have been left scrambling for alternative economic remedies, constrained by an order from Sadat to do nothing that will drive up the prices of commodities essential for the masses.
Sources in the Economy Ministry say that this was a firm order from Sadat, not a political ploy, and that the government-subsidized prices will not go up. But public anticipation that there will in fact be some increases has led to reports of hoarding, disrupting the supplies of some essentials.
Not only was the government obliged to drop most of the price increases, but a substantial salary increase for government workers and employees of public industries was allowed to stand - committing the government to an outlay of $1.3 billion, up 22 per cent from last year.
Kaissouni's program was submitted under pressure from the International Monetary Fund and from countries that give Egypt aid, demanding that Sadat's government balance the budget, out spending and make other economic reforms as a price of further support.
Facing a potential deficit of $2.16 billion in a total budget of $10.1 billion, Kaissouni proposed to cut back on the government's subsidies of some commodities and raise prices of others.
The result was an overnight rise of as much as 31 per cent in the cost of tea, cooking gas, cigarettes, some grains, vegetable oil, gasoline and other essentials that had to be scrapped a day later.
New ways to balance the budget, probably through politically acceptable taxes on luxuries and new import duties, are being sought.
High-level negotiations with representatives of the IMF and the World Bank have been going on this week, but authoritative sources say that no agreement has been reached.
When Kaissouni submitted the budget, he listed the reasons for the grim economic situation - low productivity, overpopulation, administrative inefficiency, inflation, an enormous trade deficit and lack of investment.
He might have added the foreign debt, about $16 billion, is about 1 1/2 times the gross national product, and that military expenditures consume about a third of the budget. Neither the riot nor the government's response to it has eliminated any of those factors.