After the January 25 Revolution, Egypt is at a crossroads and must choose between rising to take the road to safety or slipping down the path of regret without losing many of the great achievements of the revolution. These included ending the insolent succession project, toppling the cronies and heads of corruption, and most importantly restoring the pride and patriotism of Egyptians in their country.
There are many dangers for a revolution that lacks a recognised leadership with a vision for the future of Egypt that adopts a responsible platform on which to build democracy. Politically, Egypt is standing in front of the paths of moving forward towards a civic state of co-existence or falling off a cliff into the darkness of a regime of clerics. Culturally, Egypt faces the choice between moving towards cementing compassion and respect towards the Other or submitting to a mindset of hatred and marginalising the Other. Economically, Egypt could choose to forge ahead in creating a regulated market economy which ensures fair distribution of income and efficient use of resources, or establishing a free market which wastes the benefits of competition, fair income distribution and equal opportunity. Socially, Egypt can either strengthen the thread of a close-knit social fabric or fragment into an intertwined society.
After the revolution, the road signs on the path to safety are attractive. One is in awe of the honour, courage and sacrifice of the vanguards of the revolution of dignity, patriotism and humanity: the youth of Egypt. One is also in awe of the unity of Egyptians of all classes and generations, the solidarity of Muslims and Christians, men and women. It is the gift of the people who embraced the revolution and took back Egypt. One can’t help but feel in awe of the Egyptian people’s Armed Forces, without whom the revolution would not have succeeded once the military leadership sided with the legitimate demands of the people, thwarting any plot to push it – or the Republican Guard – into a bloody confrontation.
The road signs on the path to regret show that with the collapse of the regime and the painful events of transition, the aspired and incomplete fundamental change and goal of the revolution are threatened with demise. After all the security chaos plotted by traitors and the dismantling of the agency of oppression, Egyptians are worried about continued mistrust between the people and the police, and their slow return to their posts.
It is no surprise that Egyptians are angry about the institutionalised corruption which went beyond imagination through land grabs, land speculation, loan embezzlement, brazen and obligatory bribes, money laundering, low priced privatisation that was economically and nationally unnecessary. Egyptians are concerned because of the absence of new, clear and acceptable standards in appointing governors and others, and calls for a security solution instead of a political one in dealing with chaotic protests in Qena and elsewhere.
Muslims and Christian are fearful of sectarian strife which the ignorant and malicious are promoting. Egyptians are also worried by those who call for the rule of clerics or advocate a Salafist state.
Investors and producers are in a panic in the face of immediate economic and social demands which cannot be addressed instantly, and it would be impossible to meet even the simplest requests in light of job strikes, slow production and closed roads. Economists are startled at the collapse of the economy compounded by a rising budget deficit, soaring professional demands, the greed of monopolies and counter-revolution plots by some businessmen. Economists are also fearful about maintaining the legacy of non-productive economic development, which needs to be corrected for the sake of Egypt’s future economic outlook by prioritising development in education, increasing production and food security.
Also of concern is the proposition to launch the development corridor project because it lacks a strategic vision for development which provides incentive and production projects to fund long-term infrastructure projects or ensure equality among them. It is not the duty of the transitional government, which is trying to end the influence of the real estate lobby on economic decisions, to redirect receding investments to expanding construction and real estate projects instead of giving back to society what public funds were invested in infrastructure in Sinai, Toshka, the Eastern Tafri’a, the Gulf of Suez, the Valley and Delta.
Despite all this, the January 25 Revolution is likely to achieve its goals, like any other revolution, by taking the safe road through transforming conditions in Egypt and for Egyptians. They were transformed from abject retardation to comprehensive progress. I believe that the economic losses during the former regime in Egypt are dwarfed compared to the gains of aptitude, justice and integrity expected under the new system.
While those responsible for institutionalised corruption should be prosecuted, the Egyptians in their quest to recover embezzled money through illegal wealth should remember the South African model, which focused on building not taking revenge, and upholding the law rather than gloating.
We must admit that those who are being prosecuted may only be the tip of the iceberg whereby the base benefited from the concentration of wealth and free market chaos, but such is the way of capitalism anywhere and at any time. The time-tested solution which Egypt should adopt to move forward is to tighten the noose on corruption, rebuild economic, legal and institutional order to allow more investment in production and justified profit. Otherwise, investors will flee and the economy will collapse, ushering in the revolution of the hungry which would propel Egypt to the path of regret.
In the interim period, it is vital that producers begin producing and losses should not be distributed after investors collect their profits. Although resources are scarce to meet legitimate professional demands, stability requires serious steps to ensure equal distribution of resources. It is also necessary to disseminate awareness that fighting poverty is done by uprooting its causes through revising the economic model when drafting the new constitution, and creating an economic and social order based on efficient resource management, protecting competition, initiative and relentlessly fighting monopoly. It must also guarantee equal income distribution, link wage to productivity, promote equal opportunities, and end discrimination against youth because of their modest social roots.
Finally, I reiterate what I wrote in an article entitled ‘Visiting the history of Egypt and Egyptians’ published in Al-Ahram newspaper on 16 December, 2007. Essentially, that in the darkest time of despair and delusions that Egyptians are defeated, I say: “Egypt has proven through the millennia that every time it appears that it will never recover, it once again rises up strong and surprises friends before foes.” The revolution was the latest, but not the last, such display.
The youth, people and army of the January 25 Revolution must continue to prove their worthiness of Egypt through more achievements and overcoming mistakes in other Egyptian revolutions in modern times, beginning with the one which imposed Mohamed Ali as the ruler, followed by the Orabi revolution, the 1919 revolution and the 1952 revolution. Egypt’s prestige should prevent Egyptians from agreeing to anything that is below her pioneer role in leading world progress, which Egypt is capable of doing.