Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1250, (11 - 17 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly


Al-Sisi’s second-year priorities

Al-Ahram Weekly

In a recent article entitled “Three Alarm Bells,” former Jordanian foreign minister Marwan Al-Muasher warned of the consequences of ignoring the threat posed by the Islamic State (IS) group. The threat, he explained, is not that IS is invincible, but that it could spawn a wider spectrum of like-minded groups.

IS can be defeated in the battlefield, but what are we going to do with copycats that may arise in its wake? Unless we get our act together, addressing a deeper social and cultural malaise, we will not be able to stamp out the phenomenon, the veteran diplomat concluded.

This is the kind of threat everyone hopes Egypt will be able to confront. Instead of the chaos that fosters extremism, Egypt could provide a model for a solid and modern state, one that cares for all its citizens, one that reverses the tide of nihilism that has swept the region, replacing despair with hope, unemployment with opportunity, and incompetence with efficiency.

The model of the failed state, which is flourishing in various parts of the region, appealing as it is to extremists and zealots, cannot be allowed to go on. We cannot afford to sit back while part of our youth dreams of glorious death in ill-advised battles, or takes to the sea in rickety boats, trying to find a future in northern countries that are not eager to receive them.

As Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi starts his second year in office, much work remains to be done, not only to provide hope for his compatriots, but for many across this region.

The first priority is to eliminate the chaos and violence that undermine the country’s ability to move forward. We have been warned of the “deep state,” but no one has warned us of the “parallel state.”

The deep state, at worst, has a plan. It has a stake — whatever it is — in keeping a semblance of order, if only to serve its own interests. But the “parallel state” is one that lacks focus and purpose, and is thus of no use even to its own protagonists. The “parallel state” is too random and incompetent to lead us anywhere.

The second priority is social justice. The economist Amr Adli recently argued that the January 2011 Revolution exposed the weaknesses of Egypt’s economic model and illustrated the need to amend it in a drastic manner. In an article entitled “Economic Revival in Egypt Does Not Guarantee Political Stability,” Adli notes that the model Egypt followed under Mubarak led to an escalating social crisis, one that undermined the legitimacy of the state.

Adli doesn’t hide his fear that Egypt may repeat the same mistakes, reviving the same economic model that led us to catastrophe under Mubarak. He notes that the policies of the current regime have so far favoured major companies, foreign investors and Gulf capital, at a time when subsidies to the masses are being slashed.

It is therefore crucial for Al-Sisi, as he embarks on his second year in office, to recognise the country’s social forces and address their needs. For him to do so, these social forces should organise themselves in an orderly fashion, rather than focus on street protests and agitation that may perpetuate — rather than end  the current turbulence.

There are some in this country who fear that the June 2013 Revolution will be hijacked by Mubarak’s old coterie. People like Ahmed Ezz who may run for a seat in parliament — and perhaps even win  may indeed try to recreate the old regime. But the only way to stop them is for people with a social agenda to organise more, not scream louder.

It is also of the utmost importance that people stop selling their votes for oil and sugar, and find out more about the candidates whose social agenda would favour their interests.

The revolutionary youth of this country have a good reason to question the intentions of capital, local and foreign, but unless they come up with a clear agenda it will be hard for their wishes to turn into policy.

According to Adli, what Egypt needs is not just growth, but also a redistribution of income, coupled with a boost to education and healthcare. For this programme to go through, the young and the revolutionaries must find their voice and must create their own legitimate channels to press for their demands.

The third priority for the president is to offer a vision for the future. You often hear people asking: Where is Egypt going? Al-Sisi seems to be formulating a vision that goes beyond the dreams of many. But there are many, at home and abroad, who don’t want to see this vision come true.

There are many who invested so heavily in the rise of the Islamists that to even accept the fact they were thrown out of office not by the army, but by a majority of people living in this country, is hard to swallow.

Al-Sisi came to office on a promise of building a moderate and democratic state. He is trying to turn Egypt into an economic success story, against the desires of many of his detractors.

The fourth priority for the president is to reaffirm Egypt’s independent decision-making. We have to keep our options open in matters of political coordination and strategic objectives. In our foreign policy, we must use all our resources, talk to influential players and not put all our eggs in one basket.

We should marshal not only our veteran diplomats, but also the connections of the Church and Al-Azhar. Our soft power is not inconsiderable and, at this particular time, when the region suffers from multiple assaults, this power is most effective.

The fifth priority for the president is to tap the resources of Egyptian expatriates, just as India and China did with astounding results. We need a strategy here. We need to have a presidential aide in charge, one who would rally Egyptian expertise and capital abroad for development at home.

The sixth priority is to do something about Libya and Sudan. We need to cooperate with Khartoum, to reconnect if not with the regime then with the Sudanese deep state. We also need to restore Libya to the Arab fold, and find a way to lead it out of its current ordeal.

The seventh priority is to restore hope in the hearts of all Egyptians and Arabs, young and old. We can only do that through hard work. The time of rhetoric is over. People expect us to lead by example.

We need to talk to everyone, and to include everyone. We must reason and make sense. We’ve had too much shouting, too much noise, and now it is time to speak quietly, but to come to the point.

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