“Lease the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum to me, and I will pay the government ten times the current revenue, up front” is the offer I made to an Egyptian minister in response to his remarks concerning Egypt’s current economic stagnation. The Egyptian state is always complaining about our country’s poverty, but it has never been willing to recognize the value of new ideas that could lift the country out of its dire economic situation! The state’s principal objective is to control our national resources and Egyptian society as a whole, which obviously excludes considering my offer.
“In the next fiscal year, government subsidies will increase by 100 billion Egyptian Pounds, to reach a total of 385 billion Pounds,” the Minister of Finance recently announced, proclaiming his government’s success in feeding its citizens. The Egyptian state is always eager to gain the gratitude of the 92 million Egyptians it is caring for during the current economic slowdown; however, it does not want to value ideas that could relieve part of the government’s financial burden.
Are Egyptians by default incompetent citizens who for decades have needed large amounts of government subsidization (due to increase by 35% in next year’s budget)? We need to explore this question carefully. A comparison of Egypt to other countries in the region reveals that our country is blessed with an abundance of historic resources and extensive coastal towns, combined with a young society (youth constitute two-thirds of our population). Using proper governing policies, these resources combined could easily transform us into a developed nation – without the need to spend a single pound on subsidization.
Later, I expanded my hypothetical proposition to include the management of Luxor City, the Northwest Coast, Sharm El Sheikh, the Nile River, historic palaces in Egypt, downtown Cairo and many other national sites, again offering to generate higher revenues for the government. When sharing my notion with some acquaintances, I realized that other Egyptians have better, more viable propositions and are willing to offer the state higher revenue. Nevertheless, none of us will realize any of our schemes because bureaucrats – who don’t want to relax their grip on power – manage all of Egypt’s assets and resources.
“We are a very poor country,” President Al Sisi famously stated a few months ago. Probably, his comment alluded to Egypt’s huge budget deficit and to our domestic and external debts, which are increasing substantially. Egypt is a poor nation and it will remain so as long as the Egyptian government insists on managing the nation’s resources using its old-fashioned mindset that benefits the state bureaucracy at the expense of generating higher revenues.
The stagnation of the Egyptian economy will continue because our government has come to a deadlock; it continues to use the same methods that have failed to accomplish results for decades and is unable to offer new ideas capable of boosting the Egyptian economy. Additionally, any good business opportunity that may arise will fall directly into the lap of its cronies. Foreign direct investment will refrain from Egypt as long as we maintain the same mentality when managing the economy. Meanwhile, Egyptian youth who offer ideas and energy will be depleted as they continue to be forced to seek employment elsewhere in the region, or to contemplate illegal immigration to Europe.
The Egyptian state does not favor the creation of an independent society in which Egyptians truly work to earn their keep. The government needs to replace its governing philosophy that favors bureaucrats with one that stimulates an entrepreneurial society. Empowering citizens to come up with ideas will help to generate additional jobs and create a responsible society that does not depend on government subsidies. Egyptian youth, classified by the state as a burden on society, should be the engine that pulls society forward. Our government’s insistence on controlling society and running a state economy can only lead to the erection of structures that generate little or no revenue.