Egypt’s narrow-minded approach to governance

“We will soon overcome the economic bottleneck” is a famous declaration that has been used by consecutive Egyptian governments for decades – yet the bottleneck has been getting narrower and longer, signaling that we may be living with an economic crisis for an unknown period. The bottleneck metaphor may be an undesirable outcome of the narrow approach to governing that has been applied in Egypt for years.

Broad-minded people are often defined as people who have the ability to listen to and accept other opinions without being obliged to alter their decisions, which sounds reasonable. However, in a society where monologues are the cultural norm, it is quite difficult to listen to other perspectives – especially for government officials, who (contrary to universal behavior) tend to grow narrow-minded as they ascend the career ladder. Personally, I doubt they are even aware of others’ outlooks.

The Egyptian government applies policies that not only suit it best, but that also match its current competency and aptitude. It does not occur to government officials that they could easily expand their horizons by adopting an open-minded mentality to accommodate the ideas of citizens outside of their direct entourage. Egyptians imagine that superiority, by default, empowers them to both implement their beliefs fully and marginalize their opponents, whereas in the practice of other cultures, superiority is defined as the ability to accommodate others’ ideas.

People who have a naturally rigid attitude cope better with a designated narrow political path. This applies equally well to citizens affiliated to the ruling regime, who find themselves in harmony with their rulers’ narrow approach, and the regime’s opponents, whose rigid narrow-mindedness strengthens their opposing stance.

One of the ‘positive aspects’ of former President Mubarak’s ruling mechanism was that it empowered business people to implement their ideas and projects. While some of these projects had elements of corruption, this ruling mechanism used to boost the Egyptian economy. Our tendency to privilege a few at the expense of the non-influential majority has decreased in recent years; however, we still lack government transparency and suffer from the malpractice of favoring state entities at the expense of the private sector.

Egyptian governments often claim that most of their failures are due to citizens’ irresponsiveness to their constructive policies. When prompted by some to consider the concept of engaging citizens in their decision-making, they respond by saying that it is almost impossible to engage a nation of 100 million inhabitants in every single economic policy decision.

Empowering citizens to think and prompting the government to notice their ideas does not mean engaging the entire society in every decision; it offers Egyptian citizens some sort of ownership to realize better outcomes. One of the obvious failures of our consecutive governments has been their inability to reduce our population growth. By applying the concept of engaging citizens, we will not only get diversified perspectives on how to resolve this problem, but also give our citizens a sense of responsibility (realizing that they are part of the problem will stimulate them to offer solutions).

The government continuously assures us that it is exceeding its goals, completely ignoring the fact that there is always room for improvement – that could be made at the hands of marginalized citizens. The government often claims that it is implementing a focused strategy and does not want to be distracted by other approaches. This is a good method for project implementation, but in the early stages of project design, our government needs to adopt a broadminded approach.

Egyptian officials often stretch their muscles by working long hours – they need to work on stretching other people’s brains and muscles to acquire a broader approach. Broadening our horizons will not only lead to accommodating other citizens’ perspectives; it will help our officials to produce new and better solutions that have not been tapped into before – an approach that our government urgently needs to consider.

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