Egyptians’ remittances rising, while at home economy ails
Egypt’s consistent sources of foreign currency have always revolved around the Suez Canal, tourism and expatriates’ remittances. Our government plays a minimal role in Suez Canal waterway revenues, which are mainly influenced by global trade. External and internal factors significantly affect the performance of the tourism sector, yet our government is certainly to be blamed for its inability to develop it. As for remittances from Egyptians living abroad, they are anticipated to be at a record high this year, providing a surprise increase in our foreign currency revenue.
Almost a decade ago, Suez Canal revenues amounted to $4.7 billion a year; they are presently in the vicinity of $5.5 billion. Yearly tourism revenues have dropped from a $10.5 billion to $7.6 billion today. Meanwhile, according to Central Bank of Egypt reports, annual remittances that used to be $7.6 billion are expected to reach $26 billion this year. This indicates that over the past decade, the one source of revenue that is completely out of the government’s hands is growing significantly.
Remittances from abroad reflect the strong bond that Egyptians overseas have with their families at home. However, the increase in the number of overseas workers is a clear sign that our economy is ailing. Egypt has not been able to expand its domestic investments and create new jobs to accommodate these overseas workers. The overpopulation that our government has been denouncing for decades has now become our topmost source of foreign currency.
Egyptians who work abroad are either highly talented and were recruited for their singular competency or skilled laborers needed by overseas entities. Prior to moving abroad, these Egyptians were most likely unable to find decent jobs that could fulfill their ambitions.
Large numbers of Egyptian families are living on monthly remittances sent by a family member who holds a temporary resident work visa in an Arab Gulf country.
Large numbers of Egyptian families are living on monthly remittances sent by a family member who holds a temporary resident work visa in an Arab Gulf country. A large segment of our expatriate workforce are working ordinary jobs, but a one-hundred or two-hundred US dollar bill is sufficient to boost the living standard of many poor families in Egypt considerably.
Aware of their gloomy employment prospects, millions of Egyptian youngsters dream of leaving Egypt. But many of the jobs that Egyptians are doing abroad could be done in Egypt – if we manage to attract the overseas companies that employ them to operate in our country.
Egypt is a nation that has many distinct advantages that could yield good revenue. For instance, Egypt grows an outstanding species of cotton, but we have a mediocre textile industry. Egypt possesses nearly one-third of the world’s antiquities, along with fabulous beaches, but we have a fragile tourism industry.
The brain drain that we have been confronting in Egypt for decades may be the weak link that is impeding our progress. Our flagging industries will not be revived on their own; they need a strong engine to pull them forward. That engine is our human factor, which we have been neglecting for years. Egyptians who live abroad have substantially better knowledge, experience and personal resources than those who are struggling domestically; thus, the government should encourage them to play a greater role in enabling the national transformation we desire.
- Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. Twitter: @MohammedNosseir