Cabinet think tank says reforms reliant on trust

Salma Hussein, Monday 20 Dec 2010

Director of the Cabinet's think tank tells Al-Ahram Online that the government needs to foster the country's trust for reforms to have any chance

Ayman Farag

Restoring confidence is a "cross-cutting" issue for the new cabinet that will soon be appointed by president, said the director of the Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC), Magued Osman.

“Building trust among all stakeholders of the society is the most urgent task for a new government,” he states adding that any public policy will face strong challenges because “trust is an important and missing element.”

And for Osman it is an element that has been further eroded by the recent parliamentary elections that voted in a parliament dominated by the ruling NDP.

"I cannot convince you to join me on a trip if you do not trust me," he said, referring to the difficult reforms the government has been hesitant to undertake.

Osman sees it as imperative that a consensus is formed on painful reforms such as restructuring the subsidies or modernising the education system.

Fighting corruption is another topic that has to be on the agenda. "The government is already engaged, especially the ministry of Public Administration Development," he said referring to the creation of an Integrity Committee. Despite the fact that the IDSC issues a corruption perception index annually, "there is certainly more to be done.”

For Osman the fight against corruption is one to help restore trust in the government, which is essential if any bold reforms are to be accepted.

"Recent economic reform and growth have created many fortunes," he notes. "We have to accept wealthy people," as Egypt becomes more integrated in the global economy. He uses the example of Naguib Sawires as someone who has benefited significantly from the international expansion of their business.

On the other hand, Osman makes sure to emphasise that the "illegal accumulation of fortunes should not be accepted." 

“There are people who benefitted too, but from insider information, or nepotism. These fortunes were built up at the expense of the mass and should be fought." This phenomenon adds to the negative public perception of the governement, according to Osman.

Unlike the government, the IDSC, although affiliated to the ministerial cabinet, prides itself as a trust-worthy source of information.

Created in 1985 upon a proposition of former Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, the IDSC was first tasked with the modernisation of the government and country’s technological infrastructure. Most notably, in this regard, it established internet capacities in Egypt.

Among the centre’s first technical team were the current prime minister, Ahmed Nazif, and three present ministers, Tarek Kamel, Alaa Fahmy and Ahmed Darwish.

Osman, who spoke on the occasion of the IDSC’s 25th anniversary, pointed out that the centre had now evolved into a think tank with an independent board of trustees, who vote on the quality of researches. All the members are independent figures; none is a member of the ruling NDP.

The path trodden by the IDSC has become a model to follow and means for Egypt to strengthen relations with other nations. "Many countries have asked for our assistance to set up their own think tank. Now we are collaborating with Syria, Iraq and Burundi. The IDSC is thus playing for Egypt a role of what is called in international relations Soft Power," says Osman with understandable pride.

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