Egypt's only way out

Mohamed Abul Ghar
Sunday 20 Nov 2016

According to a report issued by CAPMAS, 85 per cent of Egypt's population lives in difficult conditions of poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. This is a timebomb that could explode at any moment

It was through an online article published by Al-Masry Al-Youm by Mohamed Abul Gheit that the entire community of social media was taken by a wave of shock and sadness over the state of affairs in Egypt as it keeps declining in a terrifying way.

I have been consumed by deep worry and sorrow myself after having read this article with its compelling and unequivocal facts and figures that are all taken from one of the publications of the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), which is a sovereign executive body that is neutral amid political affiliations and that only produces research-based material.

Given the volume of depressing information in this particular publication, I would not be too surprised if its authors face a severe reprimand from the state for having put out such detailed information that is simply embarrassing to the state.

And I have first of all to say that it would be very disturbing if the state was to put a ceiling on the publications of CAPMAS because this would render us a banana state where the executive authority blocks all accurate information and statistics.

The report that was highlighted in the article of Abul Gheit reveals that only 15 per cent of the entire population of this country leads a relatively decent living with reasonable access to some sort of decent education and nutrition, and maybe access to employment.

As for other 85 per cent of the population, the same report reveals, they live under very dire conditions that leaves them with very high levels of illiteracy and malnutrition that is harsh enough to affect their physical and mental health negatively.

According to the same report, the 15 per cent bloc includes billionaires, the middle class, professionals — including doctors, university professors, bankers and journalists, and civil servants — and other individuals who earn more than LE4,000 a month and who have access to the internet and newspapers and who are directly involved in economic and political activities, including support for and opposition to the president.

It is then within these 15 per cent that we have activists, protestors who took part in the 25 January and 30 June events, and members of the National Democratic Party that has now evolved into “For the Love of Egypt.” There too are the thieves and the thugs that the police sent to attack protestors in demonstrations. 

So effectively when the president makes a statement, its audience is primarily within this 15 per cent and all the political jokes and all the comments on current affairs come from within this group.

So what about the other 85 per cent? Well, according to the same report those are the majority of the population that suffer hunger and destitution and who basically take no interest in politics and do not participate in the political scene without having been financially rewarded for doing so.

Those are the inhabitants of the shanty towns that have expanded to the point of being an explosive belt around the cities that could actually go off at any moment.

The big question is the relation between the state and those 85 per cent and the answer is very disturbing because it seems like in those shantytowns there is hardly any serious influence of the state of law, and of course there is hardly any presence of state services, no matter how basic.

And it is from these neighbourhoods that kids run away to be street children in the neighbourhoods of the 15 per cent.

Those 85 per cent have no access to and no contact with the state and it is only the Salafis or the Muslim Brotherhood that could actually influence the choices of those people who feel inclined to escape the hell of Egypt into the heaven the Islamists promise.

It seems to me that the state is worried this 85 per cent could reach the tipping point and that is why when the president said the armed forces could be deployed across the entire country within six hours he was actually sending a message to those people. But the fact of the matter is that those people do not follow the statements of the president.

So what is the way out? There seems to be one exit strategy only: the president and the state should end animosity with the 15 per cent, all of them, from the business community to the community of activists, to start a serious process of development and democratisation.

I am afraid that we have a serious problem and I am afraid that the president would not be able to live up to this challenge alone or even with the support of the army. This is a problem that has to be attended to through a collective effort of state and society, or else it will explode.

A wide national consensus is the only way to spare Egypt.

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