Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Egypt and Driving Investment Away | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Riot police officers stand guard in front of the Cairo Security Directorate in Cairo, Egypt, February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Egypt’s far and foremost vice is neither terrorism nor political opposition; it rather is the broken economy which all governments came to promise repairing, yet rarely succeeded to.

The shattered economy is the sole loophole capable of disturbing statehood and conjuring chaos once again. Economic deficiency tops the worst of military or radical campaign threats faced by Egypt. Groups like Muslim Brotherhood or armed opposition cannot hold a candle against the untold damage a broken economy could entail.

Thankfully, economic threats are only threats which could be neutralized among the score of others facing any nation. Beating economic hardships can also turn tables around to the better of Egypt.

The government previously spoke about the dawn of a new constructive phase, and had kicked off implementation on a few promises. However, grand-scale projects might not be enough to salvage the way-gone economy weighed down by multilateral burdens and ongoing challenges.

Nonetheless, there might be a program, a plan B, behind closed doors which we don’t know of and which will lead to establishing an economy that satisfies the needs and brings prosperity to the country holding a population of 90 million.

We trust the capacities of Egypt, because it holds one of the largest markets, so that it stands to be the second largest economy in Africa, second only to Nigeria.

Despite all that being said, Egypt still fails to earn the trust of international companies. The trust vanishes immediately as soon as topics of political unrest- which only ever work against the country’s best interest- or the bureaucratic government’s inability to open up come into discussion.

Yet, we cannot overlook what has been achieved so far. The Suez Canal, a massive architectural and grand construction project, was completed within a single year time. The project tested the government’s will for development, and ever more so it proved overwhelmingly willing. However, the next question remains: does the country have any other new ideas?

All Egyptian administrations have presented and accomplished a number of projects, yet none had proposed a project increasing the country’s economic capacity. Promises on transition and development are decades old, yet with no substantial realization.

Though, let us not forget the first attempt for change in Egypt, which was led by the late former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and in which he announced adopting acceptance to reform as a part of the political transformation which followed Camp David.

Late President Sadat set Egypt to be the first among many other countries who later adopted socialism, chiefly the Soviet Union, and socialist Eastern Europe.

The only difference remaining is that the consequent Egyptian governments had not followed in the footsteps of reform and development. Unlike Poland, Bulgaria and many others, Egyptian administrations put reform on pause.

Moreover, the cause behind slowing down the march towards development is Cairo’s focus being spent on political challenges.

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had attempted to install a reform plan for an ambitious transition; however, it had strayed far from the right path as soon as political and executive conflicts arose.

Mubarak set his focus on a game of political balance run among the opposition roaming the streets, the bipartisan players inside the system and the divisions striking his administration itself.

And so, years passed by after which the government finally was unable to fulfill public demand for a decent living. Baring in mind that the political opposition was waiting on a chance for change; and thus the revolution indeed came in 2011.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi kick-started his reign with talk on change, development and prosperity which would embody the third chance for Egypt since the end of economic socialism in the late 70’s.

Egypt has been promised to become an attraction for international investment. However, in order for the transformation to take place it requires legislative amendments and a complementary economic project which would lay out the road-map to change.

Given its vast resources, Egypt is capable of rising up to the challenge, yet we fear that the nation’s enemies would distract administrative focus once again and propel it back into political feud.

We already know that the Egyptian opposition, regional conflicts, and managerial governmental challenges all consume authoritative power, thus altering focus away from development.

Not to mention the ineffable damage done by the opposition to the country’s economy. Tourism, a core financial generator for the country, had an estimated 66-percent cutback in the first quarter of 2016 alone. However, we cannot deny that terrorism had a hand to play in the loss as well.

Moreover, retracting oil prices took their toll against Egypt twice: first affecting the country from the source of income, and second harming labor dependence incorporated at oil producing companies.

All in all, Egypt’s situation would be far worse if the reform, which has been dodged around by former governments, was not stirred and immediately put into effect.

The first step would be updating legislations that inhibit international investment. Egypt’s economic success would transform it into a powerful and influential country other than being a country which keeps the promises it gives its people.