Money not a cure-all for Egypt’s ills

“I’ve always wished for 100 billion dollars to provide decent housing for all Egyptian squatters,” President Al Sisi stated recently. While this is a noble aspiration, offering huge financial assistance to move millions of citizens to better homes is neither the President’s nor the government’s responsibility! The Egyptian State often wants to help its less fortunate citizens (a significant portion of society); however, implementing genuine government reforms will advance the entire population.

The Egyptian government would like to become prosperous and eventually enrich its citizens – wishful thinking that will never be realized, obviously. This kind of thinking is reflected in the government’s economic policies; it overburdens our economy and makes citizens less interested in exerting efforts to work. If the government directed its thoughts towards crafting economic policies that aim to create new jobs, it would enable squatters to earn their livings – and move into better homes.

The Egyptian government believes that its economic challenge lies only in its substantial budget deficit and it won’t consider prioritizing its investments or restructuring its expenditures. The gap between government revenues and spending is growing significantly every year, the returns on the government’s new mega investments aren’t as large as anticipated and its employees’ productivity is naturally low. Meanwhile, the government is not working on drawing up a policy to prompt the expansion of the private sector so as to help boost the economy.

In its attempt to create economic growth, the Egyptian government is applying a mix made up of capitalist economy policy refined by socialist ingredients.  Basically, it offers citizens a socialist message and rhetoric (i.e. that the State desires to raise their living standards), while in reality it provides poor services and, recently, has asked citizens to pay free market prices without truly bothering with enhancing their productivity. This economic formula won’t serve to fulfill the government’s desire for prosperity.

The recent train accident in the Delta (one of a series of accidents that occur every year) prompted our government to express its need for 200 billion Egyptian Pounds to modernize the railways – an amount that will be difficult to allocate anytime in the near future. While a modern railway would be an advantage, most of the recent train accidents are caused by human error, so the problem could be easily resolved with a substantially lower budget. New railroad cars will give Egyptians a comfortable ride; however, if we must choose between safety and comfort, we should opt for safety.

Furthermore, Egypt’s population growth is exerting additional pressure on the transportation system, which is burdened by not being able to raise transport ticket prices, making it difficult to modernize our transportation methods. However, if we think of this challenge from a different perspective by allowing employees to work from home and reallocating them to work places that are closer to their homes, we can reduce the demand for public transportation, which would significantly shrink the budget needed for upgrading our transportation network.

The Egyptian government tends to mistake modernization, whose implementation requires a significant budget (that does not exist), for the reform of government entities to realize constructive outcomes that we truly need. Applying true reforms may eventually enable the government to modernize, but in a developing nation, modernizing cannot happen on its own. We tend to think of solving our problems as a whole, but we need to separate them and to tackle those that are feasible today.

The Egyptian government always wants to allocate funds to expand its investments. In fact, it needs to advance its competence to optimize its wealth. Better empowering State employees to enable them to make sound decisions can solve most of our government’s challenges – yet the State does not want to address our human development dilemma.  Sympathy alone will never make Egypt and its citizens wealthy. We must learn to deserve our incomes by working hard to earn them.

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