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If I were Egypt's president: My 100-day programme

President Morsi promised Egyptians he will solve 5 main problems during his first 100 days in office. With little or no achievements so far, it could be the promises themselves are faulty. Here is an alternative perspective

Salma Hussein , Sunday 5 Aug 2012
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I am about to put myself into the shoes of Mohamed Morsy, our new president, if just for the purpose of this article. As president, I have been in power for one month, and the nation is waiting for me to fulfil the promises I made for the first 100  days of my presidency.

So today I shall present this plan to the country's farmers, workers, workshop owners, tradesmen, young people, and house wives.

My programme aims at winning the hearts of minds of the public at large, and thus augmenting the sense of security and stability that the country dearly misses. The mainstay of this programme is small business, for although major companies – which get the lion's share of tax holidays and bank loans – contribute 20 percent to our national income, it is a fact that small businesses contribute four times as much.

As president, it is not too late for me to win the country on my side. If I play my cards right, those who are against me are either going to join me or at least stop criticising everything I do. And here is what I am going to do:

First: Measures to improve the conditions of workers and farmers:

1.   Forgiving small defaulted loans

I will also call on the legislators to abrogate imprisonment for defaulters among the small debtors and farmers, just as the government used to do with the big debtors. I will give loans from the Agricultural Credit Bank at 2 percent interest to any group of 10 farmers or more who cultivate the same crop, to agricultural cooperatives and also to anyone employing regular or seasonal farm hands at the minimum wage. I will also give easy loans to any farmer who diversifies into breeding poultry or packaging of agricultural products.

As for the big debtors, as in owners of large farms or agricultural companies, those must receive their loans at the usual interest rate.

I will also divert 3 billion pounds from the Exporters' Support Fund to the Farmers' Support Fund, so as to boost the infrastructure of our farming business. This is the right thing to do, since local demand, not exports, seem to be driving most of the economic growth in this country.

2.   Health Insurance to all workers in the informal sector

Millions of agricultural farms, workshops, and commercial shops are not officially registered and yet they employ 1-10 workers each. This is the sector that provides jobs for the largest part of the population, and yet those workers have no job security whatsoever. Therefore, anyone over the age of 15 who is employed in such businesses should be allowed to register with the competent government authorities within three months and get a health insurance certificate. Workers in the municipalities should help with the registration process. The applicants will be asked to write evaluation reports about the registration process, thus identifying those officials who are not cooperating fully with the public. This process can take place through the involvement of new college graduates, which will give the latter a temporary work opportunity.

I will also launch a programme to boost the productivity of small workshops and factories, with a view to upgrading these productive units at the least possible cost. To upgrade the workshops, simple steps would be taken such as rearranging the sequence or work or buying the right chairs for the workers, all of which should help increase the quality of the products and thus help boost salaries.

Second: Building future generations begins today

1.   The national programme for literacy

I will start a plan to train and employ 500,000 young graduates from colleges and polytechnics for one year. Those wishing to get involved in teaching will work in small classes in all neighbourhoods and villages. The priority should be given to those who dropped out of school, on condition that they would return back to school. The teachers will work for minimum wages plus a bonus for the top 50 percent performers.

Applications for this temporary job are to be submitted within three months, at the end of which the names of the successful candidates will be announced and they will sign contracts, get training, and start getting paid immediately.

2.   Hot meals at schools

I will start a three-month programme to train housewives and small companies in various governorates in catering that is health-regulated and nutritious. I will use the army's expertise in distributing the meals to schools. And I will also form supervisory committees from the students' parents in each municipality.

To finance this measure, I will impose a pollution tax of 25 percent of profits on environmentally hazardous industries.

Three: Fair hourly pay

1.   I would set a minimum wage per hour for workers in the construction sector (known for its exploitation of impoverished workers) as a first step toward applying the same minimum wage in all other sectors within a year.

2.   I will end the payment of salaries of government employees through undisclosed foreign aid.

3.   I will revive the Supreme Council of Wages, and have an employment policy expert preside over it. The council should be composed of equal number of elected employees, business representatives, and government representatives. The council is to be given one year to prepare a unified structure for wages in both the public and private sectors, depending on experience, skill, qualifications, and the type of work. Jobs relevant to the development process should receive relatively higher pay. Syndicates and business chambers need to be given three months to elect their representatives.

Fourth: Public transportation and traffic

I will sell the 92 and 95 grade gas at world prices, which will save nearly LE5 billions. The revenues should be used to finance the following:

1.   Create public transportation in all deprived Egyptian cities and double up the size of public transportation networks in Cairo and Alexandria in preparation for running cars on alternate days, according to their license plate numbers.

2.   Provide free transportation for all students across the country from and to schools.

Fifth: A Committee of Wise Men

I will appoint a committee of wise men to take charge of transitional justice. The committee is to be formed from legal experts and revolutionary youth, may use international expertise, and will have extensive authorities. The committee is to begin work within one month to address previous human rights violations. In this way, we may move on from a period of violence and oppression to one of democracy.

Within the first three months of my presidency, I will guage the skills of first and second echelons of the administrative apparatus and make a plan to raise the competency of this apparatus over the next four years. The next step is to make appointment in all government jobs conditional take place through tests, as is the case with the foreign ministry. This will guarantee that competence will be the basis for getting a government job.

Now I will take off Morsy's shoes and wait to see what he will do.

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