Al-Ahram Weekly Online   31 December 2009 - 6 January 2010
Issue No. 979
New Decade's special edition
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

The long view

A decade on... and then some more. Hossam Badrawi * sets his sights on 2030

A national vision should be the work all the country's stakeholders. The vision I present here has been influenced by my political experiences and by my participation in formulating National Democratic Party (NDP) policies since 2002.

Future globalisation must affect any nation's vision, and a long transition process towards global government is likely, though not in the next two decades. But if anyone is thinking of a vision beyond 2030 it is a factor that should be considered.

Let me start this article by stating that there is nothing wrong with aiming high. We will not achieve our dreams by continuing with business as usual. We need a paradigm shift in our thinking, behaviour and belief. Any progress towards realising a future vision requires empowerment and leadership. When the broad swathe of vulnerable, marginalised members of society are able to exercise their potential and have access to the physical and intellectual assets necessary to take control of their own lives and future, then the momentum for change from the grassroots will energise the process of growth and development across society.

Leadership is just as important. It is needed to guide the masses and provide an environment that respects human rights and ensures the clear implementation of the rule of law. Leadership can act as a safeguard against chaos. Leadership that can facedown corruption can inspire people to see the good in themselves, furnishing hope and positive energy. It takes means, of course, to achieve goals. As well as agents of change it requires funding, political will and mass participation.

The following eight pillars for my vision of Egypt are inspired by the public's own aspirations and expectations, by NDP policy papers and by the 2005 Egypt Human Development Report.

FIVE DIRECTIONS OF CHANGE: First, a new 'social contract' whereby the state reduces central control and promotes greater political, social and economic participation from civil society, with strict implementation of the rule of law. Restricting the number of presidential terms to two comes on top of all political reforms.

Second, cultural and behavioral change through an education system that promotes participation, entrepreneurship, innovation and transparency within an enabling environment.

Third, the clear and credible implementation of human rights, as stated in the constitution and contained in the international agreements to which Egypt is a signatory.

Fourth, structural change within the economy capable of driving sustained growth and employment.

Fifth, a radical shift away from the intensive concentration of Egypt's population along a narrow strip and the redrawing of the Egyptian map to save scarce agricultural land.

THE WELFARE STATE: Legitimising the welfare state can be achieved through the provision of higher quality public goods and services targeted to ensure equity and efficiency. There are seven deliverables that meet the constitutional right of individuals to equal opportunity and that will have an enormous impact on the quality of their lives. They are:

- Quality education for all.

- Quality health care provision for all.

- State contributions to social security for new and young SME employees to encourage formalisation and job creation.

- An integrated package of income transfer and service access for families in extreme poverty.

- Support for the rapid introduction of clean water and sanitation projects.

- Provision of effective public transport.

- Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

GROWTH WITH EMPLOYMENT: The reallocation of budget resources to prioritise disadvantaged segments of the population, within a consistent fiscal framework, will be possible when average economic growth of 10 per cent annum is achieved. Six sectors, encompassing traditional and non-traditional activities, should act as engines for this growth. They are:

- SMEs, especially those engaged in non- agricultural rural activity.

- Labour and skill-intensive goods intended for the export market.

- Non-traditional agro-industry and horticulture.

- Tourism.

- ICT and related service exports.

- Housing and construction.

INVESTMENT AND SAVING: Domestic savings should climb from a low of 20 per cent of GDP to an impressive 30 per cent by 2015, driven by a large injection of medium and long- term finance. This will promote SME credit, social insurance for SME workers, health insurance and housing mortgages. The aim should be a virtuous circle -- major boosts in finance triggering increased aggregate investment and incomes as well as a decline in population growth.

NEW ROLES: The new social contract will encourage an end to apathy by providing a democratic and decentralised environment where choices become possible. Accountability and transparency can be instilled through clear legal frameworks and citizen charters. Pride in work will be encouraged through market-based salary scales and incentives. The realignment of job descriptions in the public domain to match real needs will require retraining of available staff rather than the creation of new jobs. NGOs, and a growing private sector, will encourage corporate responsibility, and the partnership with the state will be energised by a new legal framework.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Reforms in education and of training systems, coupled with the spread of ICT and increased expenditure on research, are a necessary first step in overcoming the prevailing culture of mediocrity. Empowering the poor with information and technical knowledge through extension services will raise productivity across two thirds of the private sector, allowing for a successful economic take-off. The accent must be on institutional reform addressing:

- Market and bureaucratic failure.

- Identification of best practices.

- Capitalising on the surplus of young graduates, and retraining them as teachers and trainers, or employees in quality extension services.

- The promotion of private entrepreneurship through public recognition (competitions and prizes).

- Streamlined bureaucratic processes, tax holidays for small activities, and reduced costs of bankruptcy.

CIVIL SERVICE REFORM: A revival of the public service ethic can only come about if the causes of laxity and corruption are addressed. The civil service must be perceived as an honorable occupation, offering a competitive salary scale and incentives system that discourages dishonesty. Employment and promotion must be merit based. There should be a downscaling of bureaucratic staff, together with a reorientation of underutilised skills towards productive activities. This necessitates a revision of current structures of promotion based on seniority and a shift towards discipline and hard work being rewarded. It will require investment in retraining and the articulation of rules and procedures that have clarity of purpose as well as efficient and dedicated service impact, the entire process guaranteed by service charters making clear to citizens the kind of service quality they can expect.

CONSERVING ENVIRONMENT: The best case scenario urgently requires that we:

- Develop and implement an integrated plan and programmes, articulating the goals to the public and such measures to improve efficiency and reduce waste.

- Employ the full range of policy instruments, including regulation, monitoring, voluntary measures, market and information-based tools, land-use management and cost recovery, without cost recovery objectives becoming a barrier to access by poor people.

- Improve the efficient use of public goods and promote their allocation in a way that balances the need to preserve fragile environments, in line with domestic industrial and agriculture needs.

- Promote the diffusion of capacity-building, via technical and financial support.

- Create programmes for energy-efficient, sustainable, cost-effective growth.

Given sustained implementation of the reforms outlined above I foresee Egypt, two decades from now, as a state enjoying democratic rule, one in which authority is circulated via free and transparent elections. Government accountability will be achieved by two properly elected chambers and local people councils.

I see young Egyptians attending advanced public schools where more than 35 million can study. I see an Egypt with no less than 150 universities, divided between the public and private sectors, the majority of them public private partnerships.

I see all of Egypt's education institutions gaining international recognition, and at least five Egyptian universities included among the world's top 100.

I see average per capita income of US$20,000. I see vibrant DFI investment supplementing local investment so that it reached $50 billion a year.

I see every Egyptian citizen carrying a health insurance card that grants access to appropriate medical care regardless of his of her financial status.

I see Egypt competing in the Olympics and securing a place among the top 15 countries.

I see young Egyptians taking up service and logistic jobs in European countries.

I see 30 million tourists visiting Egypt every year.

I see a green Egypt, an environment-friendly Egypt, a country that produces 70 per cent of its energy needs through solar and wind power.

References: NDP policy papers, 2002-2009; Heba Handoussa research papers; Egypt Human Develoment Report 2005

* Head of the ruling NDP's Education Committee and member of the National Council for Human Rights.

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