Talaat Harb Pasha is one of the great men in Egyptian history. He dedicated all of his life to set the Egyptian economy on the right track. He founded Bank Misr which was the first truly national bank in Egypt. Through Bank Misr, several successful industrial and commercial projects had been established. As a result of Mr. Harb initiatives and efforts, Egyptian industry was developed from being small scattered work shops to become giant industrial factories. Moreover, he was the first to use Arabic as the main language instead of English for all administrative transactions in bank Misr and in all other established financial affiliates.
Talaat Harb Pasha was born and raised in Kasr Elshok, Gamalia Distric which is in heart of Cairo. He started his education going to a special primary school known as “Kottab” where he learned reading and memorizing The Holy Quoran and the basics of Arabic language and mathematics. He continued his education in governmental schools up to the secondary school where he got his high school diploma in 1895. Then he joined the law school where he was graduated in 1899. On the same year he graduated, Mr. Harb had been employed as an accountant and translator at the Khedawia which is the district for administrating the agricultural affairs concerning the lands owned by the Khedowy, (Ruler of Egypt).
During that period of Egypt history, Egypt was highly in debt to international financial institutes. Through his work, Mr. Harb was deeply engaged in investigating the Egyptian economy and then became able to define its main characteristics.
Then, Mr. Harb was transferred to work for the Egyptian government at the law-issuing department. Working at that department, Mr. Harb became aware of the bad laws that caused the failure of Egyptian economy. Those laws were put and governed by the foreign lenders. At that time, Mr. Harb reached the conclusion that the only solution to save the Egyptian economy was to establish means to develop the Egyptian national production of various goods through establishing local resources to finance and administrate it in an independent way.
Mr. Harb established an office for accounting and bookkeeping. In 1905, Mr. Harb was chosen to be the director of the Egyptian real estate company. Mr. Harb put a plan by which only Egyptians occupy all the administrative positions in the company. That plan is considered to be the first attempt in Egypt history to nationalize the Egyptian economy. In 1908, he established the financial cooperation company which had the function of carrying out small banking jobs. That company was designed to lend money to small factories and other small business projects.
Mr. Harb believed that any economical reform should be based on protecting the national investor through establishing good laws that assist in easy financing from national resources. He also became aware of the need for marketing the Egyptian production as based on planning to enlarge the exporting process to Arab states. Mr. Harb also realized the importance of education to gain adequate knowledge of foreign technology in order to develop the Egyptian industry.
Banking history in Egypt
Establishing banks in Egypt started by the foreigner who needed banks as money basis to help them for permanent presence in Egypt to supervise the financial markets. In addition, those banks were designed to collect savings from Egyptian citizens in order to invest them in their foreign countries. The foreigner groups also established branches of their foreign banks into Egypt in addition to the banks they establish locally.
Mohamed Ali Pasha himself when he ruled Egypt thought of establishing a bank and asked two foreigners to share in that establishing. In 1879, Khedawy Ismaeil planned to establish a national bank with a capital of 14 million pounds to be collected from Egyptian citizens, but that plan was never executed.
In 1907, as a result of the economic crisis, foreign lenders raised their interest rates on Egyptian borrowers including farmers and other small investors.
On April, 1911, Talaat Pasha held several meetings and conferences in which he denied the high interest rates, and on November 19121 he published his famous book: “Economical remedy for Egypt and the project of establishing an Egyptian bank”. He encouraged the citizens to establish a national bank based on shares from their own money and savings. He even collected little sums of money saved by school children and opened in return saving accounts for them in the bank.
On May7, 1920, Talaat Pasha celebrated the establishing of Bank Misr in a great ceremony in Cairo opera house. Bank Misr started with a modest capital, 800,000 pounds, but it represented a historic moment for the Egyptian economy. In its original establishing contract, the bank shares should be only owned by Egyptian nationals. The primary working policy announced by the bank was to assist financing the establishing of national industrial, agricultural, and other commercial projects. I938, and as a result of the dedicated efforts of Mr. Harb, the capital of Bank Misr was raised from 800,000 to 2 millions pounds and opening a total of 73 branches.
Companies and projects established by Bank Misr:
- In 1922, the company for Printing Shop with a capital of 50,000 pounds.
- In 1924, the company for Cotton Ginning with a capitol of 30,000.
- In 1925, the company fore Transportation and Navigation with a capital of 40,000 increased to 150,000 pounds.
- In 1925, the company for Acting and Cinema with a capital 15,000 increased to 75,000 pounds.
- In 1926, the company for Real Estate to develop the plantation of sugar cane.
- In 1927, the company for Artificial Silk Production with a capital 10,000 increased to 250,000 pounds.
- In 1927, the company for Spinning and Weaving Cotton in Mahla Elkobra with a capital 300,000 increased to one million pounds.
- In 1927, the company for Fish Catching with a capital 20,000 increased to 75, 000 pounds.
- In 1927, the company for Exporting Flax with a capital 10,000 increased to 45,000 pounds.
- In 1930, the company for Exporting Cotton with a capital 120,000 increased to160, 000 pounds.
- On 23 March, 1931, Talaat Pasha inaugurated the opening of the company for Spinning and weaving Cotton in Mahla Elkobra which is the greatest company of established by the bank and also the greatest in the Middle East area.
- In 1932, the company for Air Lines with a capital 20,000 increased to 80,000 pounds.
- In 1932, the company for Selling Egyptian Industrial Products with a capital 5,000 increased to 80,000 pounds.
- In 1934, the company for Insurance with a capital 200,000 pounds.
- In 1934, the company for Sea Navigation with a capital 100,000 increased to 200,000 pounds.
- In 1934, the company for Tourism with a capital of 7,000 pounds.
- In 1934, the company for Tanning of Leather with a capital 5,000 increased to 50,000 pounds.
- On 7 February, 1935, Talaat Pash celebrated the inauguration of the navigating ship (Kawther) to be added to the ship (zamzam) for carrying pilgrims to the holy land.
- In 1938, the company for Spinning and Weaving Cotton fine yarns in Kafr Eldawar with a capital 255,000 increased to half a million pounds.
- In 1938, the company for Mining with a capital 40,000 pounds.
- In 1938, the company for Producing and Trading edible oils with a capital 30,000 pounds.
Talaat Pasha had established all those companies and projects in just 20 years which is considered to be the greatest breakthrough period in developing the Egyptian economy. The establishing of Bank Misr was the starting step to nationalize the financial institutes which resulted in issuing the law 22 in 1957 to nationalize the national bank of Egypt which was administrated by the British.
Talaat Harb Pasha as a writer
In addition to being a great industrious man, Talaat Pasha was a great writer and author.
He worked sometimes in his live as a journalist and he issued a number of books. Those books include:
-“Arab History and Islam”, in 1897.
-“Raising women and the veil”, in 1899.
-“Last word on the woman and the veil”, in 1901.
-“The Suez Canal”, in 1912.
The difficulties that faced Bank Misr
On 2 September, 1939, world war II broke out which caused panic to people who hurried to withdraw their savings from the bank. The bank was not able to give out all the funds the investors demanded since most of bank funds were being invested in the banks projects. In addition the Egyptian Government shared in a plot to harm bank Misr by ordering the post offices to withdraw the savings put by the citizens from the bank. Talaat pasha tried to borrow money from the national bank of Egypt, but the British director of the bank refused to lend him the money he needed. Because of the financial crisis he faced, and just after two weeks from the beginning of the war, on 14 September, Talaat Pasha resigned from his kingdom he established.
On 21 August, 1941, Talaat Harb Pasha passed away and was buried in Cairo. On 22 February, 1957, Om Kalthom, the great Egyptian female singer sang a special song in memory of Talaat Pasha saying: “remember him, honor him”. The Egyptian Government had also honored Mr. Harb by building his statue which was erected in downtown Cairo surrounded by the buildings of some of his important bank projects.