Being a resource-rich nation is not, in itself, a true blessing. The real asset is a government that knows how to manage its country’s resources by maximising their value to benefit all citizens equally. The Egyptian state’s poor management of its natural resources is clearly illustrated all along Egypt’s North Coast beaches, where its policy consists of manipulating and abusing wealthy citizens–while ruthlessly destroying the region’s abundant resources.
A few decades ago, the Egyptian state became conscious of the natural beauty and potential prospects offered by the North Coast region–a stretch of beachfront estimated to be roughly 10 times longer than the shores of Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt. This should have been an opportunity to develop a new city, substantially larger than Alexandria and with limitless possibilities for inward expansion. Applying its shortsighted vision to the development of the region, the Egyptian state never even considered this idea.
The North Coast was developed in keeping with the state’s mindset of manipulating and pleasing thousands of Egyptian elites and senior bureaucrats. Whereas the wealth of the former and the power of the latter carry much weight with the government, the state has always viewed the masses who inhabit Alexandria (a city with poor infrastructure, overcrowded with millions of citizens and visitors) as “citizens of burden”, often complaining about their overconsumption of subsidised energy and food.
The Egyptian elite, always in search of exclusive holiday resorts, provided a perfect target for the government; it offered resorts at inflated prices to these people and their entourages (persons willing to stretch their resources to gain entrance into the elite community). Upon the successful development of the North Coast resorts, Egyptian state bureaucrats began to pressure the government to provide them with “a slice of the cake”. The government complied, allocating reasonable areas of coastland for employees in its various agencies and departments (police forces, journalists, physicians, engineers, members of the judiciary … the list goes on).
Over time, Egyptians have formed what can be referred to as the “North Coast Community”. Thousands of citizens who spend the entire summer vacationing at their respective exclusive resorts, able to purchase food at substantially inflated prices, overspending on entertainment activities, enjoying their unruly behaviour for a few weeks, and eventually leaving the beaches, which will remain deserted for the rest of the year.
The North Coast has become a place where a few well-connected business people are easily able to increase their fortunes by capitalising on the state’s economic manipulation policy. Through the creation of an artificial demand for property, a small number of real estate developers managed to purchase land plots, and to realise returns on their investments before hammering a single nail in resort construction. Exploiting the North Coast community’s propensity to overspend, people who offer food and entertainment services also typically inflate their prices.
Egypt’s North Coast is a “state of mind” in which the Egyptian government creates artificial demands, motivating wealthy Egyptians to develop a desire for acquiring private property where they can enjoy exclusive living. The North Coast constitutes a glaring example that everyone notices in the summer season–but the same mindset (wherein the state plays the role of manipulating wealthy citizens and destroying natural resources) is applied to Egypt’s remaining natural resources, such as the Nile River, new urban development lands, and so on.
It does not require much intelligence to come up with the idea of offering the hundreds of kilometres of North Coast beaches to the general public, thus enabling millions of citizens to enjoy pleasant summer holidays, making them more comfortable and happier. However, applying this policy will result in the state losing its ruling edge mechanism that revolves around creating a high demand for the wealthy elite’s craving for exclusiveness–and leaving the masses who inhabit relatively smaller areas to live in severely overcrowded conditions.
The Egyptian government could easily better manage the North Coast and other seashore sites if its goal were to exploit the miles of beaches to produce more revenue and please more people. Instead of prompting Egyptians to invest in private homes that are used only a couple of months a year, the government should have encouraged investors to develop holiday resorts designed to be year-round, short-term rentals for Egyptians and foreign tourists. This would have enabled millions of Egyptians to share equally in the enjoyment of our natural resources, at relatively low cost, while wealthy citizens could have reallocated their money into other profitable projects.