By Hassan Fayed, contributor, EgyptianStreets.com
“The Arab Republic of Egypt is a socialist democratic state.” That is what Article 1 of the 1971 Egyptian constitution states. This Article summarizes the chaos that Egypt has long been enduring since the 1952 revolution.
Socialism, in Marxist theory, is a stage that eventually leads to communism. It stands precisely against the principles of democracy. The problem with Egypt is that it is a country with no clear definition. For decades, Egypt has been swinging between socialism and capitalism, trying to find a balance between the two, leading to its self-destruction.
Today, this confusion has left the country between two extremes. When Nasser first introduced his glorious socialist policies, Egyptians were granted many privileges that they had previously lacked. What they had failed to notice was that they were given a bag of bad fish in exchange for their fishing rod.
The ‘Daddy’ State currently employs over 5.5 million people, with an average of five working hours per day per employee. These employees, who really make everybody’s life miserable whenever we need to get a document, just got a raise for the average of five hours of work they do (and they’re still complaining!)
The government, meanwhile, also holds over EGP 600 billion in assets and investments, with an impressive portfolio including almost everything from railways to factories. How much do they make out of these assets? Nothing. Most of these companies are operating at a loss. Even worse, many of those employed by these companies rarely show up to work, and yet they complain about their wages. Ever heard of someone going on a strike for not working? Yeah, that is how messed up we have become
Education in Egypt is free. But it has become so useless that the average Egyptian spends over 25 percent of their income on private tutoring for their children. It is needless to point out that the country isn’t exactly crawling with Einsteins anymore.
Health care is also free, and I won’t enumerate the discrepancies in the system as to prevent you from further depression. Meanwhile, fuel and electricity subsidies continue to cost the country billions every year, and today we suffer from blackouts and fuel shortages.
Any economist would tell you that all these measures create inefficiencies. It is simple: if fuel barely costs you any money, you will use more fuel. As you use more fuel, the government pays more on subsidies. As the government pays more on subsidies, it becomes unable to meet the market demand; and so you have shortages.
If you get paid without working, you will not work. People were receiving without giving. The very concept of having a career ceased to exist, as motivation became useless and even sometimes penalized.
Protesters today demand ‘social justice’. At first, it sounds like a lovely term. But the problem is that it is too broad of a term that it could encompass any demand. Some countries define social justice as having free health care. Others define it as having free education. We need to set our priorities straight and know what we want. We have reached a point where getting married is now considered to be a social justice that ‘Daddy’ needs to secure. No government could possibly deliver on such demands. Do not be mistaken: it is not the people’s fault that they have those beliefs; the responsibility lies on the consecutive cowardly governments who continued to endorse this rhetoric.
While ‘Daddy’ was too focused on fulfilling his paternal duties, he forgot his initial job – which is to regulate and administrate. Capitalism thrived over the past decade because there were no regulations whatsoever. The gap between the rich and the poor grew so large because there was no system. It really startles me how a state that employs over five million people did not have the regulatory tools to prevent slums from exploding across Egypt.
The whole world has long realised that socialism is unsustainable. Unregulated capitalism is also catastrophic. Egypt is still trapped in the 80s when most socialist countries were beginning their transition towards a capitalist market. Margaret Thatcher was not called the Iron Lady for no reason. She knew that she needed to abolish the concept of the ‘Daddy State’, and she had the guts to do it. Today, Britain thrives on the policies and the sacrifices that she made and outlined. Her governance proved that it does not take a man in uniform to be brave.
What I fear the most is that Egyptians are continuing to fall in the same trap. We do not need a new Daddy that will maintain a socialist fetish with a capitalist visage. We need a leader who has the guts to break it down and give us the hard truth.
If this country has any chance of surviving, it has to define its nature and set its goals. The State continues to operate as a babysitter. Whoever rules the country next needs to replace equality of outcome with equality of opportunity. It should not be the government’s responsibility to place people on the ladder, but to provide them with the same tools to climb. In other words, we need to start realizing that only hard work pays off.