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Egypt’s economy is a special case

The relationship between the Egyptian government and various international economic agencies is a very “hush-hush” one; meetings and dialogues between the two parties often take place behind the scenes. Egyptian citizens, who will eventually be affected by any economic measures agreed upon at the talks, learn of an economic reform program only at the time of its implementation.
Since the Egyptian government does not share its economic goals with its citizens, we are left incapable of assessing the success or failure of the economic program applied.
The government is proud of its economic reform programs when they are praised by international institutes — but it is quick to discredit the competence of the same institutes when they don’t commend these programs enough. Moreover, since the government tends to argue in favor of its international economic agreements while the opposition rejects them completely, society is left with no clue as to what is truly beneficial for the economy.
Egypt has its own cultural dynamics that are completely different from those of other developing nations, but most international economic and political agencies that propose reform programs for Egypt lack an understanding of these domestic factors that either encourage or deter society’s acceptance of any given policy. Because they live in isolated lavishness, even foreign experts in Egypt cannot comprehend the true-life struggles of Egyptians.
“We anticipated a stronger Egyptian pound,” said a leading director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which partnered with the government to float the currency in November 2016. The outcome contradicted their anticipations because the economic scheme applied by the IMF completely overlooked Egyptians’ irrational attitude to foreign currencies and their lack of confidence in their government.

The country’s cultural dynamics differ from those of other developing nations, but most international economic and political agencies that propose reform programs do not understand these internal factors.

Mohammed Nosseir

International agencies tend to recommend economic reform policies that have worked well in other countries with similar economic challenges. However, many fundamental factors of other nations’ social dynamics differ from Egypt’s. For instance, the Chinese model of running a family business based on teamwork and seniority differs completely from the Egyptian model, which is based on fragmenting a family business into smaller individual units to enable each family member to run his own show.
International economic agencies often struggle between endorsing the Egyptian government’s goal to strengthen the state economy, and stimulating investors’ actual needs by giving them economic incentives to expand their businesses. These agencies have to comply with the government’s clear condition — avoiding the establishment of an economic dialogue with Egyptian citizens.
The Egyptian economy is, evidently, a complicated and controversial field. Egyptian economists tend not only to disagree with one another about fundamental economic principles, they also work to disqualify one another’s economic theories, leaving those of us who are struggling to understand basic economic ideologies and philosophies behind. Meanwhile, the government adds to this dilemma by declining to follow a specific and clearly defined economic school of thought, working instead with a “mix and match” of ideas without offering any comprehensible justifications.
The government and society generally tend to announce only the positive aspect of a given challenge, neglecting to address any negative consequences — in the hope that denial will work to reduce these negativities. This allows the deficiencies of any notion to escalate until they emerge in the form of a new challenge whose magnitude exceeds their initial expectations. Egypt would be better off if the Egyptian government constructively engaged its citizens in the country’s economic challenges.
• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir