Issue No.1136, 21 February, 2013      20-02-2013 02:54AM ET
The appointment of one of the president’s sons at a state-owned company cast a spotlight on the way nepotism continues to dominate the Egyptian job market, Amirah Ibrahim reports
Six months after graduating from the Faculty of Commerce at Zagazig University Omar Morsi, the third of President Mohamed Morsi’s four sons, was appointed to the Holding Company for Airports, an affiliate to the Civil Aviation Ministry. Such was the public outcry with which the news was received that he subsequently declined the job.
Mass unemployment among graduates — even students with PhDs have problems finding work — was one reason behind the criticisms aimed at the president’s son. Another was the fact that he was appointed without having done his obligatory military service, though according to military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali, the army has lately decided to reduce the number of university graduates required to serve in the army.
At the time when graduates are lucky if they can find any job, Omar Morsi was reported to have walked into a job that paid LE36,000 a month, a figure he later disputed on his Facebook page. But the salary is perhaps less important in gauging public reaction than the fact that his employment violated laws regulating employment in government bodies where vacancies are legally bound to be advertised externally.
Nepotism, it appears, is alive and well. Two years after President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, it appears the public is unwilling to stomach such a flagrant example of the fact.
“Omar is qualified for the job and has gone through all the necessary tests and passed them,” Aviation Minister Wael Al-Meadawi told the media in the middle of the public uproar. Al-Meadawi and his aides immediately came under fire from the media, activists, unemployment groups and political parties when the news was leaked.
Activist groups, including the Revolutionary Youth Coalition and student groups, had called for a mass march to the Civil Aviation Ministry to protest against what they said was blatant favouritism.
“Morsi’s son is working and we are still jobless. Even when we have an elected president his children enjoy a special status,” said one jobless graduate.
The entrance to the Civil Aviation Ministry’s headquarters and the offices of the airport and the Air Navigation Company both saw small protests as soon as the news of the appointment was leaked. More marches headed towards the Shura Council.
The protests prompted the aviation minister to launch a damage limitation exercise. According to Al-Meadawi’s narration, Morsi’s son “accidentally” learned about the job vacancy when he was paying a visit to a friend who already worked at the company. “An advertisement had been posted by the main gate. Omar read it and expressed his wish to apply for the job. That is it.”
He subsequently added that the company’s administration had found out that Omar Morsi applied two months ago for one of 10 jobs that had been internally advertised. “Morsi’s son followed regular procedures for applicants, took all required tests and currently is finalising his papers. I am surprised to see the son of the president applying for a normal job while he could apply for much better jobs with much higher salaries.”
The minister’s justifications for the job offer were greeted with scepticism.
On Saturday several unemployed filed a complaint before the prosecutor-general asking for an immediate investigation into the job offer.
“This is illegal. Internally advertising jobs is legal only if the positions are reserved for trainees already working at the company. The law stipulates that all other positions must be advertised in at least one newspaper. Omar passed through the internal advertisement door, which is nothing but corruption,” said one lawsuit contesting the decree appointing Omar.
Essam Khalil requested the prosecution to cancel the appointment of Morsi’s son and investigate all aviation officials involved in making the job offer.
By Sunday it had become clear that official attempts to justify the president son’s employment had failed. Omar announced on his Facebook page that he would not be taking the position after all.
“I knew from the beginning that seeking that job would put me and my family in the firing line. I decided not to complete the application. The question I now face is how can I get a job in my beloved Egypt?” he wrote.
It is, of course, the same question facing tens of thousands of new graduates, and millions of others.