Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1127, 20 - 26 December 2012
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1127, 20 - 26 December 2012

Ahram Weekly

False promises

President Mohamed Morsi inherited an administration and state institutions riddled with corruption. During his presidential election campaign he vowed to reform them. How are those promises being met, asks Reem Leila

Al-Ahram Weekly

In the wake of the 25 January Revolution many hoped that the corruption that had so marred public and private life could be eradicated, says Emad Gad, a political analyst at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies. Unfortunately, he says, both the government and the presidency have failed to meet these hopes. “They have proved their inability to be either reformed or oversee reform.”
According to Gad, the new president, as well as the new government, lack a new governing system. “There should have been a comprehensive plan, with a gradual but nonetheless specific timetable to eliminate corruption from major state institutions. Yet nothing has been done till now,” says Gad. “In fact things are getting worse.”
“People have begun to look for solutions to their problems outside the framework of law and legitimacy and in doing so are compounding the problems caused by randomness and corruption.”
Gad believes that economic, political, security and social revival entails redefining the government’s role, reforming the administrative apparatus and setting in motion a process of decentralisation and the empowerment of local people.  
The president, says Gad, should have prioritised improvements in government services, including the elimination of unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles. “This could have been done within an administrative and financial framework that eradicated corruption. Unfortunately Morsi and his government lack the mechanisms necessary to succeed in such a mission.”
Morsi may have promised to eliminate corruption from political, economic and media institutions  but what he is doing instead, says Gad, is to Islamise them so as to enforce a Brotherhood agenda. “Even the constitution was drafted by a Constitutional Assembly with an inbuilt Islamist majority.”  
Overhauling state institutions so that they serve the wider public interest requires a degree of political will that according to Abdel-Khalek Farouk, the head of the Nile Centre for Economic and Strategic Studies, is absent. “Since the Muslim Brotherhood gained control their main concern has been to take over institutions, not reform them,” he says.
“The Islamists’ main concern since their advent to power has been to dominate state institutions. They mistakenly believe that when they dominate they can rule and control.”
For any meaningful reform to take place, says Farouk, there must be an overriding commitment on the part of the state to the welfare of all its citizens.
“The Muslim Brotherhood leadership believes that Islamising the state is all that is required. They have never questioned whether one faction of society has the right to dominate all of Egypt’s institutions. As long as it’s them they believe this is change. But it’s not. It’s a continuation of dictatorship.”
Half of all Egyptians live around the poverty line. Lifting people out of poverty should have been the government’s overriding goal yet, says Alia Al-Mahdi, professor of economics at Cairo University, Morsi’s economic policy is indistinguishable from that of Mubarak.  
He appointed Ashraf Al-Arabi — a member of the dismantled National Democratic Party — as minister of planning. His finance minister is slavishly following in the footsteps of Youssef Boutros Ghali while the ministers of investment, trade and industry were all assistants to Mubarak-era ministers.
“Morsi has not made any attempts to recalibrate economic policy. It’s as if the revolution and its demands for social justice never happened. Morsi and his government have adopted Mubarak-era policies lack, stock and barrel.”
Investment policy, says Al-Mahdi, is in shambles, and the government seems to have no other aim than to secure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. If it had thought out of the box, though, Al-Mahdi estimates that LE40 billion could have been generated by the resale of government land previously disposed of in corrupt deals and by entering into realistic compensation deals with Mubarak-era businessmen who could have been released from jail following the return of their ill-gotten gains.
President Morsi has announced sweeping increases in sales taxes and stamp duties and amended Egypt’s income and property tax laws.
Despite electoral pledges to guarantee judicial independence President Morsi, argues Cairo University professor of law Fawzia Abdel-Sattar, seems unaware of what he can legitimately do and what he can’t. He repudiated a court ruling to dismantle the newly elected People’s Assembly and then followed up by issuing a decree transferring the then prosecutor-general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud from his post to become Egypt’s ambassador to Vatican. He had to backtrack on both moves. Then came his constitutional declaration of 22 November, a naked power grab which placed all his decisions beyond judicial review and protected the Constituent Assembly and the Shura Council from any legal appeal. The decree is viewed by a majority of judges as a major threat to judicial independence.
“Instead of reforming the judicial system Morsi is defying it,” says Abdel-Sattar.
His approach to the state-owned media is equally flawed, according to Ayman Al-Sayyad, editor-in-chief of Weghat Nazar magazine and until recently one of the president’s advisors.
That Morsi fulfil his promises to clean-up the media by ridding it of corrupt elements was an urgent task, says Al-Sayyad. He needed to reform the Ministry of Information and end government interference in editorial policy across all media which could have been accomplished by establishing a press and media council that operated independently of the executive.
“Instead, Morsi and his government worked solely towards Islamising the media. They want to impose their control and have already banned newspapers and satellite channels that they feel are critical,” says Al-Sayyad.

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