Looking far ahead
By Doha Abdelhamid
The foreign aid issue in Egypt has come to the forefront recently. Every year the issue hits the headlines, with US aid the main focus of discussion among professionals, academics and the press.
This year, the issue again is conditionality -- the stipulations put on the transfer of military aid to Egypt, subject to the fulfilment of human rights goals. The Americans are not the only ones to impose conditions on aid. The Europeans harp in the same direction. Needless to say, Egypt has accepted conditionality, though multilateral and bilateral negotiations with the donor community set what these economic, political and social stipulations are. Structural and fiscal support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund is tied to benchmarks as well.
Of course, aid in the form of loans, in-kind and/or technical assistance is made to serve the strategic objectives of the donor. No shame about this. And, once an agreement is sealed between the negotiating parties, assistance becomes the property of the recipient country and entails the fulfilment of the said strategic objectives over a predetermined time horizon with agreed milestones. Interim assessment and evaluations are also routine in order to insure aid effectiveness.
What is important is that we need to have a clear vision of Egypt's strategic objectives. Objectives have to be specified and agreed upon with the general public. The presidential elections programme, which came into being in 2005 as a new social contract with all Egyptians, had the potential to serve this purpose. Unfortunately, the government has not pushed the programme into implementation.
We, Egyptians, have to agree on our strategic goals for the coming five, 25, 50 and even 100 years. We need to know where we are going, and how to get there. What our available natural and human resources, and how can we conserve and optimise them for future generations? Are we to rely on aid, or can we step away from it, and its conditions, in a phased manner? In the interim, how can we match our strategic objectives with those of the donor community, and develop an understanding with the other in a framework governed by respect and integrity?
This week's Soapbox speaker is a resident representative of the International Development Evaluation Association.