The long path to a new government

Gamal Abdel-Gawad
Tuesday 9 Jul 2024

Egypt’s new government took office last week after extensive reviews and consultations, writes Gamal Abdel-Gawad

 

Egypt’s new government was formed last week after a long period of labour, perhaps the longest since 1952. This may be an indication of the sheer number of separate files that had to be reviewed and the discussions and consultations that needed to be held, all of which may be considered as indicators of the care with which the new ministers were selected.

As for the outcome of this process, we have only to avoid premature judgements or celebrations and to monitor the results that will be achieved on the ground after an appropriate period.

Egypt faces significant challenges, and it is not easy to achieve breakthroughs in a short period of time. It may be possible to pump enough gas into the electricity network to end the present power outages or to pump more dollars into the economy to finance imports of production supplies, but these are short-term fixes and the symptoms of chronic diseases and structural problems that require deeper reforms that do not happen at the touch of a button.

Our problem is not a shortage of this or that resource, but rather the fact that successive governments have for decades only succeeded in keeping Egypt in the category of the middle-income countries and constantly on the brink of some new crisis, whether a regional war, a global financial crisis, or a deadly pandemic.

Successive governments have kept Egypt afloat and saved it from drowning, but they have not been able to take it to safety and prosperity. The new government that was formed last week needs to push the country towards real progress and advancement, taking it from backwardness to progress, from hardship to abundance, from ignorance to knowledge, and from dependence on external partners that support us when needed to independence and an ability to stand as equals alongside partners that we give to as well as take from.

The requirements for achieving these goals are not a secret, and previous governments have spoken at length about them. All of them have spoken about increasing production, activating exports, developing education, and encouraging scientific research. The problem is not in knowing what needs to be achieved, but the way in which we try to achieve it, something which it seems previous governments have failed to find.

The Egyptian people do not expect the new government to repeat what they already know, but instead they look forward to a government that has a clear roadmap that leads, even after an extended period, to achieving the goals of national progress and development.

Talk of goals and roadmaps remains largely general and theoretical, making it difficult to judge and evaluate them except after a sufficient period of time. However, in the immediate term, the government needs to regain public confidence by working according to new methods and in a new spirit that differs from what we have seen before. What follows are some ideas that the new government may find useful in doing so.

First, it should reduce talk about goals and focus instead on talking about means. We want to know the government’s plans to increase investment, promote industrial production and exports, reduce the teacher shortage, lessen classroom congestion, return students to schools, introduce Egypt into the world of semiconductor production, and develop artificial intelligence applications, not just import them.

Second, the state should not compete with the private sector, but instead should remove obstacles from its path. The previous government adopted a policy of state disengagement and began to implement it. We want the new government to commit to publishing the reasons for the entry of the state and its agencies into any new productive or service projects, making the publication of these reasons mandatory for all state agencies.

Third, many people, including investors, complain about the complexities they face in dealing with government agencies. There has been a lot of simplification of such procedures, but Egypt is still a country in which people can find themselves spending a lot of time paying taxes, obtaining licences for a store or factory, registering real estate, and enforcing court judgements. Each minister should be obliged to review and reduce the procedures required to complete such transactions, in order to create an investment-friendly environment.

Fourth, many people have the impression that successive governments have been hiding secrets and that what they tell the public is only part of the truth. This has greatly damaged these governments’ credibility and limited their ability to gain people’s cooperation when cooperation was necessary for the success of public policies. Vague talk and rhetorical phrases harm credibility. What is required is accurate data and periodic evaluation with disciplined standards that show public opinion the extent of the progress we are making towards achieving our goals.

Fifth, I would like to see the new government show more trust in the people and recognise their right to follow public affairs and understand and deal with the facts responsibly. The government needs to rebuild its communication with the public through the use of professional advisers and media spokespersons and the comprehensive development of websites and social media, so that they become a reliable and well-managed source of information and data.

 

The writer is an adviser at Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

Short link: