Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1158, (25 - 31 July 2013)

Ahram Weekly

Open letter to the prime minister

The tasks of Egypt’s interim government extend far beyond the interim period, writes Sayed Attia

Al-Ahram Weekly

This week, the government of Prime Minister Hazem «l-Beblawi will take the oath, moving to manage the transitional period after a year of mismanagement from the ousted regime. This interim administration will govern though upcoming parliamentarian elections, after which a new government will be formed. The prime minister and his team are facing a very difficult challenge. The unfulfilled aspirations of the 25 January Revolution, and accumulated and aggravated problems during the last year, pushed Egyptians en masse into the country’s streets and squares.

The newly appointed government has no option but success. In order to succeed it should be aware of a gamut of issues as follows:

First, this government should not consider itself as having a provisional mission. This government has no luxury of time and there are some factions that constitute a stumbling block to its performance.

Second, in spite of the fact that this government will take decisions in the short-run, it is required to find urgent solutions for current pressing problems such as security, traffic, garbage and fuel. More than this, the government is required to formulate a strategic vision for the future.

Third, this government has some luck as it has the confidence and support of the Egyptian people along with the support of brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. These countries have provided a package of assistance measures, including non-refundable grants, loans without interest, and petroleum supply. This support will cement foreign reserves at the Central Bank of Egypt, having a positive impact on the Egyptian pound versus the dollar, with subsequent positive impacts on import prices. At the same time, petroleum materials will help offset the sharpness of the current crisis.

Forth, the return of confidence between the people and the Interior Ministry will create a state of harmony immediately encouraging tourism, and domestic and foreign investment.

Based on the above, we can offer the following recommendations to the prime minister:

First, achieving social justice was a main motive for the 25 January Revolution and its correction of 30 June 2013. A social justice understanding should surpass a simple narrowing of the gap between maximum and minimum wages. The right understanding of social justice is to base it on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the existence of mechanisms to secure implementation and follow up of measures required to achieve social justice.

Second, empowering youth is not restricted to appointing some of them that the media has focussed on as assistants to ministers or to governors. True empowering is to involve youth in the production process before the political process. This does not mean excluding the youth from the political sphere, but that inclusion should take place parallel to effective participation in the production process. The main guarantee of empowering youth is a jobs-generating economy.

Third, critical problems need policy formulas and amendments of legislation. On the top of these are the budget deficit that reached LE200 billion, the poverty rate that reached 25 per cent of population, the sharp decline in foreign direct investment (FDI), and the decline in tourism. The most urgent problem that needs immediate action is population growth that approximately equals the economic growth rate, which means that the Egyptian economy growth rate is zero.

Surely it is not fair to expect the transitional government to resolve all these problems in the coming short period, but at least it can put down a framework, or guidelines, for dealing with these critical problems.

Fourth, adjusting the voice of the media — whether television, radio or newspaper — to reflect the people not the ruler, regardless of whether this ruler is mature or not, is overdue. At this critical moment Egypt needs a media system that spreads a culture of development.

Fifth, formalising that religious dialogue with Al-Azhar institution is the only reference point for religious issues, closing the door to amateurs that mislead the masses. In this regard, no one should be allowed to preach or broadcast on religious issues without first having a licence from Al-Azhar permitting such practice.

Sixth, Egypt needs to adopt what we can call “development diplomacy”. Egypt is one of the countries that have embassies in most countries; these embassies supervise local commercial and information offices. Theses bodies should spare no effort to deliver the message to the world that a new era has begun in Egypt. Frankly speaking, the government should look at the performance of such offices from a cost-benefit analysis perspective.

Seventh, going south, Egypt must diversify and expand its economic circle. Its main trade partners are the US and EU. Egypt needs to pay attention to its strategic hinterland in Africa, and extend connections with Asia and Latin America.

Eighth, it should be noted clearly that this government will be responsible for amendments to the constitution and supervising coming parliamentary elections, and that this puts on its shoulders historic responsibility. This government is responsible for providing Egypt with an escape from its current impasse, mapping the pathway for hundreds of years to come.

Lastly, the government should adopt policies the country urgently needs. Having the intention to listen to opposing factions is a good thing, but all parties must realise that we have no more time to lose.

 

The writer is a senior international trade policies researcher in the Trade Agreements and Foreign Trade Sector, the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

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