The globalisation train
By Taha Abdel-Alim
Egypt can react leisurely to globalisation but only at its own risk. Failure to adjust to the changes wrought by globalisation carries serious consequences. The last thing Egypt can afford is to fall behind in such essential fields as information and technology. History shows us what occurs when we do fall behind -- as happened during the industrial revolution. They are lessons that we should by now have learned. Backwardness is not, after all, a matter of fate. We can make globalisation work for us and doing so should be the primary goal of our policy-makers during the first decades of the 21st century.
The potential gains from globalisation are enormous, as is the damage that will come from marginalisation. Emerging economies that have succeeded in integrating in the international economy have experienced higher rates of growth, increased levels of direct foreign investment and a boom in exports. We are all familiar with the Asian financial crisis, which is generally blamed on the unchecked forces of globalisation. Yet the Asian economies quickly bounced back, thanks to their inherent vitality and some help from industrial countries. Compare this with the condition of those states that have failed to get a foot on even the first rung of the globalisation ladder.
Egypt must press on with liberalisation and eradicate unnecessary red tape and it must do so while keeping an eye firmly fixed on social justice and equal opportunities. The state has certain social responsibilities to fulfil, as does the business community. For these to be successfully met, Egypt needs to introduce further democratisation and improve the performance of its bureaucracy. I believe that we can become part of the international economy while providing economic and social opportunities for the general population. We mustn't shy away from implementing the necessary measures for fear of political chaos and social tensions, not in a country as politically stable as Egypt.
In order to meet the challenges of globalisation Egypt needs a strategy that is realistic, practical and morally responsible. We need to have a realistic view of the world and of our position in it. We need to calculate the costs and benefits of every action, keeping Egypt's interests foremost in our minds.
Egypt has four options from which to choose. Option A is the socially-adjusted free market favoured by the ruling National Democratic Party. Option B is the market-driven economy favoured by liberals, big business and an influential chunk of the NDP. Option C is the command economy advocated by Nasserists, socialists and a faction within the NDP and option D the Islamic economy favoured by the Muslim Brotherhood and other banned Islamist groups. The nation must make a choice between them based on their ability to enhance economic efficiency, foster equality of opportunity, accelerate democratisation, safeguard national security and meet our moral and cultural commitments.
My own preference is for the socially- adjusted economic model. This will allow us stay in the globalisation game while minimising any adverse social consequences. As I said before we have to remain realistic, rational, and morally committed. We need to turn our rhetoric into action and democratise fast. Globalisation is on the march and we cannot afford to be left behind.
* The writer is a deputy director at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.