Beyond extinguishing the fire

Nader Bakkar , Saturday 27 Jul 2013

The current transitional government has a historic opportunity to start a new era of institutional work in which strategic vision surpasses individualistic tactical movements

Lurking in the dark for the current government, hidden in every step tread, is the path dictated by a methodological flaw. It is not the characteristic of the wise to fish for others' mistakes, or lie waiting for them to happen. But it is also not palatable that criticism begins from the first day with the same intensity that accumulated during a whole year, as was the case with the previous government.

Our keenness that we should not repeat mistakes of the past is what motivates us to express our discontent with the way of choosing ministers according to vague criteria tinged by randomness and improvisation, and our astonishment at the increase in the number of ministries at a time we were demanding government austerity and breaking the mould of bureaucratic thinking.

There is a difference, then, between a keenness that we should build upon in order to reach a unique balance in the relationship between the state and its citizens, in which walking blind is refused as impossible for nations to adopt and at the same time develop, and appreciating the necessity of objective criticism of everyone working in the public domain, to ensure that they will not deviate from good governance. As the first Caliphate Abu Bakr said: "If I am doing well, come to my aid; if I made wrong, correct me."

Even if the current government reflected on the mistakes of the past and took measures in order to evade them, still a percentage of human error will be expected and accepted among wise persons. But repeating mistakes and ignoring their lessons would be a most dangerous indicator imperative to stop.

A historic opportunity is lying ahead of the transitional government to inaugurate an era of institutional work that the country did not witness before in its modern history; an era where the voice of improvisation listens in humbleness to the voice of coherent, solid planning; an era where a general outline for Egyptian politics prevails over individualistic trends and personal temperaments; an era where a comprehensive strategic vision surpasses partial tactical movements.

Our land is about to be barren due to over-experimentation at all levels: between a foreign policy in which Mubarak was a law unto himself, thus he turned his back to a whole continent in personal revenge, so it became an adversary; and an economic policy that deducts money that it does not deserve, opens up to foreign markets without regulations, sells assets that the people owns to a band of thieves at the cheapest prices, and fails to provide basic subsistence for its citizens countless times. Enough of these personalised decades. So let us not squander an opportunity for the sake of more improvised personal experimentation away from institutional work — which by the way I smelled in the CNN interview with ElBaradei when he spoke of borrowing from foreign countries.

I'll repeat what I said to the Qandil government earlier about the necessity of launching concerted workshops comprising Egyptian economic experts locally and abroad, and from all economic schools, whether Islamic or capitalist or leftist, through which we can combine all valuable opinions, and which may yield many fruitful and innovative solutions that drive us out of the mould of narrow stereotypical conceptions for financial liquidity and financing, before adopting a borrowing policy as the sole solution.

We need a reasonable degree of national consensus in order to draw such a political outline, thus reducing gaps in this critical period in which we live. Through exerting effort we can discover the general features that can form a common ground on state policy, or at least can be appreciated among all national action movements in the post-revolution period, whether related to economic or security or even foreign policy.

The government needs to adopt a "rapid solution" mentality. One of the salient features of this mentality is forming a crisis management team at the level of ministries that have similar or overlapping activities, and another for rapid deployment on everyday life problems, away from conventional and antiquated mechanisms.

If "fending off evils precedes bringing benefits," according to the famous principle of Islamic jurisprudence, and stopping the bleeding precedes surgical intervention, then fear that years of negligence may suddenly explode into new and unanticipated crises is what drives us to point out the necessity of setting priorities for rapid deployment after accurately drawing a detailed map of the crisis that clarifies the most urgent and dangerous hotspots in relation to citizens' everyday lives.

I am speaking about taking a further step from merely extinguishing the fire. Even this policy, with sincere apologies, previous governments did not implement. We need now proactive and preventive strikes to counter negligence, corruption and inert bureaucracy.


A version of this article was published in Al-Ahram newspaper 22 July.

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