The strength of Egyptian resilience

The knowledge that a light exists at the end of a tunnel encourages many to go through it, no matter how dark or long it is. The risk currently confronted by the Egyptian State is that of citizens forced to reside inside a challenging tunnel for many years, without knowing when it will end or what the exact outcome will be. The State has been relying on the resilience of Egyptian society, which has proven to be quite solid to date. Nevertheless, if this resilience is fractured, it will be difficult to put back together.

The saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” describes Egypt’s ruling philosophy. We are a nation in need of complete economic reform, yet we prefer to take a few corrective actions that are often diluted with plenty of other unintended deceitful ones – pulling us back to square one. Although our government had earlier announced that 2018 would be Egypt’s year of economic prosperity; however, the present economic policy has certainly lowered our standard of living. Egypt’s challenge today lies in our resilience in the face of this economic liability and our ability to accommodate it.

The Egyptian State often wagers on the springiness of citizens and its own iron grip that together prevent society from either collapsing or revolting. Notwithstanding, the risk Egypt faces today can be likened to the “domino effect” – the collapse of one dilapidated building could easily trigger that of other neighboring buildings, especially since the walls and foundations of many of our real estate properties are already in bad shape. This metaphor applies well to our society and shows how vulnerable it really is.

For the past few years, the Egyptian government has been working on substantially reducing subsidies. In next year’s fiscal budget, the government intends to reduce fuel subsidy expenses further (from an estimated 110 billion pounds this year to 89 billion pounds), and electricity subsidies are scheduled for further cuts (from 30 billion pounds this year to 16 billion pounds). Even if it is economically correct, this policy will place an additional financial burden on Egyptian citizens.

Furthermore, the devaluation of the Egyptian Pound in November 2016 has substantially lowered the living standard of all Egyptians, including those who are well off. The economy of a nation such as Egypt that suffers from low productivity, is economically dependent on external factors such as tourism and overseas remittances and where imports are equal, roughly, to triple the exports, tends to be more fragile than that of many other nations. Furthermore, Egyptians, for the most part, are not equipped to think creatively when it comes to creating wealth!

Culturally, we are a static society that accepted, a long time ago, to be economically framed by the State, which offers citizens secure jobs with average pay in return for exerting limited energy at the workplace. The Egyptian State wants to exploit the energy of its citizens in activities that barely enable them to feed their children when in fact; we need to capitalize on people’s energy by channeling it in a direction that boosts their living standard considerably.

For years, Egyptian drama has portrayed our State employees suffering to feed their children and often deriving their pleasure from modest outings, such as a walk along the banks of the Nile River accompanied with eating a special meal! However, for the majority of citizens, even such small pleasures are difficult to afford nowadays. The Egyptian government is working on reducing its growing subsidy bill (estimated at EGP 385 billion for the present fiscal year), which is a good move. Nevertheless, it does not give citizens alternative means to advance their incomes.

Egyptians, who live in decrepit buildings putting the lives of their entire family at risk, do so because they have no alternative residences.  The Egyptian State needs to better observe the line of demarcation between society’s tolerance for economic reform and the inability to survive. A combination of political and economic factors determines the extent of Egyptians’ tolerance for economic reform. Our government needs to learn more about its citizens’ resilience before it is too late.

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