Egypt’s subsidization program | Arab News – Africa-News

“Lease the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum to me, and I’ll pay the government 10 times the current revenue up front,” is the offer I made to an Egyptian minister in response to his remarks about the country’s economic stagnation.

The Egyptian state always complains about the country’s poverty, but it has never been willing to recognize the value of new ideas that can lift it out of its dire economic situation. The state’s principal objective is to control national resources and Egyptian society as a whole, which obviously excludes considering my offer.

“In the next fiscal year, government subsidies will increase by 100 billion Egyptian pounds ($5.5 billion) to reach a total of 385 billion pounds,” the finance minister recently announced, proclaiming the government’s success in feeding its citizens. The Egyptian state is always eager to gain the gratitude of 92 million Egyptians, but it does not want to value ideas that could relieve part of the government’s financial burden.

Are Egyptians by default incompetent citizens who for decades have needed large amounts of government subsidization (due to increase by 35 percent in next year’s budget)? We need to explore this question carefully.

Comparing Egypt to other countries in the region reveals that it is blessed with abundant historic resources, extensive coastal towns and a young society (youths constitute two-thirds of the population). Using proper governing policies, these resources combined could easily transform us into a developed nation without the need to spend a single pound on subsidies.

Comparing Egypt to other countries in the region reveals that it is blessed with abundant historic resources, extensive coastal towns and a young society (youths constitute two-thirds of the population).

Mohammed Nosseir 

I later expanded my hypothetical proposition to include management of Luxor City, the Northwest Coast, Sharm El-Sheikh, the Nile River, historic palaces in Egypt, downtown Cairo and many other national sites, again offering to generate higher revenues for the government.

When sharing my notion with acquaintances, I realized that other Egyptians have better, more viable propositions, and are willing to offer the state higher revenue. But none of us will realize our schemes because bureaucrats, who do not want to relax their grip on power, manage all of Egypt’s assets and resources.

“We are a very poor country,” President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi famously said a few months ago. His comment probably alluded to Egypt’s huge budget deficit and domestic and external debts, which are increasing substantially. Egypt will remain poor as long as the government insists on managing the nation’s resources using its old-fashioned mindset that benefits state bureaucracy at the expense of generating higher revenues.

The stagnation of Egypt’s economy will continue because the government is deadlocked; it continues to use the same methods that have failed for decades, and is unable to offer new ideas. Additionally, any good business opportunity that may arise will fall directly into the lap of its cronies. Foreign direct investment will refrain from Egypt as long as we maintain the same mentality when managing the economy.

Meanwhile, Egyptian youths who offer ideas and energy will be depleted as they continue to be forced to seek employment elsewhere in the region, or to contemplate illegal immigration to Europe.

The Egyptian state does not favor the creation of an independent society in which Egyptians truly work to earn their keep. The government needs to replace its governing philosophy that favors bureaucrats with one that stimulates an entrepreneurial society. Empowering citizens to come up with ideas will help generate additional jobs and create a responsible society that does not depend on government subsidies.

Egyptian youth, classified by the state as a burden on society, should be the engine that pulls society forward. Our government’s insistence on controlling society and running a state economy can only lead to the erection of structures that generate little or no revenue.

• Mohammed Nosseir, a liberal politician from Egypt, is a strong advocate of political participation and economic freedom. He can be reached on Twitter @MohammedNosseir.

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