Correcting the path: New ways forward for Egypt's governance

Nader Bakkar , Wednesday 17 Jul 2013

Egypt's transitional government needs to avoid the mistakes of its predecessors

In order for 30 June to be a true correction for the path, and for the majority to move from the status of panic to one of cautious optimism, we have to make sure that we don’t repeat any of the post-January 25 revolution mistakes. The governments after January 25 have made drastic strategic mistakes, and we need to assure that the current transitional government is aware of and has learnt from these mistakes.   

Full transparency about the economic and security challenges that face the government with clear statistics, understanding all attempts of making fake conflicts in order to disperse our energy, facing factional protest if they come up – and most probably they will – firmly, and making use of the energy of youth in small projects are all primary scales that measure how we learn from or repeat our mistakes.       

The issue of national reconciliation is another challenge that needs a firm stance, especially with the sweeping current of hatred we live in now. It also requires wisdom, with reintegrating the youth of the Islamic current into political and social life. Reconciliation requires a clear road map that terminates unjustified detention of protesters who aren’t charged, as well as drawing up a media charter that prevents hate, incitement and exclusionary speech.

In order not to repeat previous mistakes, we also need to clearly identify the fine line between countries that support our Egypt as a state with regional and international significance, and other countries that want to make Egypt a pitch for Gulf players or for sharing influence between Washington and its opponents.   

I am not sure if it’s too late or if there is still time to advise the government to adopt the philosophy of the ‘agile government’ to run such a bureaucratic system. I have pointed to this philosophy several times before as criticism of the performance of Qandil’s government in a two-part article titled ‘Between the Agile Government and the Governance of a Cask.’

One of the most important concepts of this philosophy is reducing this huge number of ministers we have (30) in comparison to other countries like the USA which has 14 departments only, or the French who have 15 ministers, or China that governs a population of 1.3 billion with 27 ministers.

We have multiple options for merging ministries, like merging the ministries of tourism and antiquities, scientific research and higher education, education and higher education, petroleum and electricity, re-merging ministries of youth and sports, and merging the revived ministry of developed governance with local development.     

An agile government that truly learns from the mistakes of the previous ones shall follow the concept of “administration according to goals,” where the cabinet sets clear goals with a timeline that fits into the 10 months prior to the presidential elections we have ahead. These goals should be feasible and easy to measure away from media slogans and publicity. 

Maximising the role of governance should be a priority for the transitional government. By governance I mean moving beyond theories to practical plans that eliminate the systematic corruption we have in the government system. It should make the bases for further development in this regard by future governments.   

Speaking of institutional system, the necessity of building over previous development should be asserted so that we eliminate the legacy of wasting energy. Any development by previous ministers – and Bassem Ouda comes on top of the list – should be contained in the plans of new ministers.   

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