I listened to President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s speech and I found myself wondering how Egyptians will react to his call to donate a pound every morning to collect a total of EGP 4bn in a year via text messages. I became more concerned with the spread of upbeat emotional statements through various media and social networking sites that have inflated the initiative, saying it will bring billions and fix the inherited economic problems.
I do support this initiative, not because of the financial outcome, but for what the initiative symbols in the difficult times that face the state, the people, and the army. We must rally around the leadership and unite to face the conspiracies being hatched at home and abroad that wish to overthrow the state and complete the Zionist-American Spring.
Now that I have expressed my opinion, let me ask the pivotal question that I will cover through this article. When will a pound build Egypt?
Egypt is an ancient country with a civilisation that has lasted 7,000 years. A country is defined as a political grouping that establishes a sovereign entity in a specific regional scope and exercises power through a system of institutions. Thus, the basic elements of any country are: the government, the people, the region, and sovereignty and recognition.
To answer the question, I will begin to discuss what is expected from the government and the people around the president’s initiative. I will explain the responsibilities associated with its parties for it to succeed.
The greatest burden falls on the government itself. A country cannot rely on donations as a main source to meet the shortfall in revenue. Therefore, radical reform will be needed in the following aspects:
- Increasing tax revenue by raising the efficiency of the collection process. Current tax revenues are very low compared to what should be collected;
- Reconsidering energy prices for energy-intensive industries.Thereby, energy power will be priced according to activity to achieve social justice but taking into account keeping the industry competitive;
- Rationalisation of government expenditures without compromising the services received by citizens. For example, considering the number of embassies and missions abroad, the salaries of senior staff should be reviewed, and the number of ministries should be reduced by merging those that share common missions;
- Reviewing the actual implementation of maximum wages in the state administrative apparatus and its subsidiaries to achieve social justice and provide funds to the state treasury;
- Rationalisation of public debt, which reached alarming levels;
- Stopping the erosion of foreign exchange reserves and developing means to increase it;
- Fighting corruption in all state agencies, especially the local councils;
- Reconciling with serious businessmen who stumbled due to the post-revolution turmoil;
- Adoptting transparency in the presentation of audited data from an independent body about the size of donations that have been obtained from the initiative, as well as details of expenditures.
The people, as the financier of the initiative, have a bigger responsibility than donating money. Funds will not change anything without a real change in the culture and increasing the sense of citizenship and responsibility towards the nation. So a pound cannot build Egypt unless:
- The youth culture changes its tone regarding the type of work it will accept; there can be no more claims about “unsuitable work”. Sitting at a cafe or behind a keyboard waiting for better jobs is the worst thing youth can do. Look at advanced nations and see how youth take any job available because they understand the value of work;
- The workers master their work.Unfortunately, Egyptian workers are some of the least-productive workers in the world. Egyptians in reality work 30 minutes a day, versus seven hours in developed countries, according to a report issued by the Arab Federation for Human Development;
- We dispense or rationalise consumption of non-essential luxuries, such as owning mobile phones and acquisition of electrical appliances and electronics. Egyptians suffer from poverty, while there are more than 95m mobile lines in Egypt. About 91.3% of Egyptians have mobile phones, 93.2% have coloured television sets, and 87.7% have satellite receivers, according to CAPMAS statistics;
- Egyptians work harder, without asking for tips or use pressure to seek bribes;
- Businessmen realise the social role of their companies to achieve sustainable development;
- We feel that the nation is a ship that carries everyone and that the smallest breach and bring the entire ark down.
Now that I have explained how the president’s initiative can be successful, let me conclude by saying that the picture is not entirely rosy. We still have a long journey full of challenges and difficulties. I say to those who oppose the initiative without sound logic, we are determined to build Egypt for the generations to come. Stay where you are. We are not worried about your positions that we have been used to over the past five years. Just let us strive to achieve our ambitions. Long live Egypt.
Hany Aboul Fotouh is a banking expert and the Chairman of Alraya Consulting Company.