Money not a cure-all for Egypt’s ills

Money not a cure-all for Egypt’s ills

“I have always wished for $100 billion to provide decent housing for all Egyptian squatters,” President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stated recently. While this is a noble aspiration, offering huge financial assistance to move millions of citizens to better homes is neither the president’s nor the government’s responsibility. The Egyptian state often wants to help its less fortunate citizens (a significant portion of society), but implementing genuine government reforms would advance the entire population.
The government would like to become prosperous and eventually enrich its citizens — wishful thinking that will never be realized, obviously. This kind of thinking is reflected in the government’s economic policies; it overburdens our economy and makes citizens less interested in exerting effort to work. If the government directed its thoughts toward crafting economic policies that aim to create new jobs, it would enable squatters to earn a living — and move into better homes.
The Egyptian government believes its economic challenge lies only in its substantial budget deficit, and it won’t consider prioritizing its investments or restructuring its expenditures. The gap between government revenues and spending is growing significantly every year; the returns on the government’s new mega-investments are not as large as anticipated; and its employees’ productivity is naturally low. Meanwhile, the government is not working on drawing up a policy to prompt the expansion of the private sector so as to help boost the economy.
In its attempt to create economic growth, the government is applying a mix of capitalist economic policy refined by socialist ingredients. Basically, it offers citizens a socialist message and rhetoric (i.e., that the state desires to raise their living standards), while in reality it provides poor services and, recently, has asked citizens to pay free market prices without truly bothering with enhancing their productivity. This economic formula won’t serve to fulfill the government’s desire for prosperity.

The government tends to confuse the need for modernization, whose implementation requires a significant budget, with the reform of its entities in order to realize the constructive outcomes we truly need.

Mohammed Nosseir

The recent train accident in the Nile Delta (one of the many that occur every year) prompted our government to express its need for 200 billion Egyptian pounds to modernize the railways — an amount that will be difficult to allocate any time in the near future. While a modern railway would be an advantage, most of the recent train accidents have been caused by human error, so the problem could be easily resolved with a substantially lower budget. New railroad cars would give Egyptians a comfortable ride; however, if we must choose between safety and comfort, we should opt for safety.
Furthermore, Egypt’s population growth is exerting additional pressure on the transportation system, which is burdened by not being able to raise ticket prices, making it difficult for it to modernize. However, if we think of this challenge from a different perspective, by allowing employees to work from home or reallocating them to workplaces that are closer to their homes, we can reduce the demand for public transportation, which would significantly shrink the budget needed for upgrading the network.
The Egyptian government tends to confuse modernization, whose implementation requires a significant budget (that does not exist), with the reform of government entities to realize constructive outcomes that we truly need. Applying true reforms may eventually enable the government to modernize, but in a developing nation, modernizing cannot happen on its own. We tend to think of solving our problems as a whole, but we need to separate them and tackle those that are feasible today.
The Egyptian government always wants to allocate funds to expand its investments when in fact it needs to advance its competence to optimize its wealth. Better empowering state employees to enable them to make sound decisions can solve most of our government’s challenges, yet the state does not want to address our human development dilemma. Sympathy alone will never make Egypt and its citizens wealthy — we must learn to deserve our incomes by working hard to earn them.
 
  • Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view