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International Recognition of Egypt's Success

International Recognition of Egypt's Success

Tuesday, 28 September, 2021 - 11:30
Hazem Khairat
Former assistant to the Egyptian Foreign Minister

The wave of the “Arab Spring” that we have been reeling from since 2011 has left the region facing a series of disasters and afflictions that have had unprecedented negative ramifications on its political, economic and social stability. Here, we must be honest with ourselves and take distance from vague, populist slogans and concepts, as some countries continue to be ravaged by the chaos, instability, and institutional absence that these events have introduced since they began.

Egypt was swept under this wave that directly threatened its security and stability, as it was hit with a wave of terrorist attacks that were unprecedented in their scale and violence. These attacks were radically different from the terrorism seen in the nineties, and they coincided with an array of regional and international developments - even conspiracies - that sought to undermine and destabilize the Egyptian state.

Moreover, regional and international issues that threaten Egyptian interests, either directly or indirectly, rose to the surface, as did other matters that, of course, have negative repercussions for investment, tourism and the economy in general. All of that reflected negatively on the Egyptian economy, costing it around 380 billion Egyptian Pounds. Nonetheless, this state, through its leaders’ determination, its sons’ sacrifices and the professionalism of its institutions, managed to contain this wave and put it under control over the past few years. It was not merely an impressive achievement but a miracle.

The tale of the miracle of overcoming the “spring” and those repercussions is told by independent experts, like those who wrote the Human Development Report for the United Nations Development Program entitled Development is a Right for All: Egypt is the Path and March. This report, which was not issued decades ago, is independent and impartial. It was drafted by a UN body and not the Egyptian government, whose role was limited to providing information and data and facilitating the UNDP staff's task. It thereby allowed the international community to know the documented and indisputable facts on the ground and dispelled the rumors that had been circulating.

Egypt has been developing its ambitious economic plan since 2014 with Egypt Vision 2030. The plan outlines a path to comprehensive development, the attainment of economic and social justice, and making the economy as competitive as possible to grant its people a decent and dignified life.

In 2016, the government implemented an ambitious reform package with the International Monetary Fund’s support over three years. The package focused on rebalancing the economy through an array of political, monetary and financial reforms, as well as reforms to energy subsidies, increasing the government’s budget through value-added tax, and developing a social security program that ensures that the poorest segments of society are granted the basic requisites for a decent life. The plan also involved restructuring the energy sector, privatization, improvements to infrastructure, and creating an investor-friendly climate. By the end, it had managed to make major strides in fixing structural problems.

Despite the heavy economic and social burdens that came with the coronavirus pandemic and have been weighing on the country since early 2020, hitting the country at a time when Egypt was in dire need of financial stability to move its projects and economic reforms forward, the state managed the crisis excellently, allocating around 100 billion Egyptian pounds to mitigating its social repercussions, and it took preemptive measures to meet the people’s health and social needs and support the sectors of the economy hit the hardest.

Now that the UNDP report on Egypt is available to all, the Egyptian state’s efforts to improve investment in education, health, digitization, institutional development and administrative reforms have become clear. Added to that are the strides made through the reforms that have been implemented since 2016 and have reflected positively on growth rates (3.6 percent in 2020/19, and 3.3 percent in 2021/20, the year of the crisis) amid the contraction and decline in global economic growth caused by the pandemic.

The report also found that goods and services were being broadly provided amid the high inflation rates and difficult circumstances, and that citizens’ attainment of their pressing needs was facilitated through programs that enhanced electricity, transportation, roads and bridges, and they were kept safe through enhancements to the security apparatuses and the support provided to all kinds of local units. It also concluded that the monetary and financial situation was put under control and that subsidies were lifted in a calculated and gradual manner, without affecting basic food staples.

Here, we must also shed light on social protection and the social benefits ensuing from state programs like Solidarity and Dignity, which millions of citizens have benefited from, as well as the Decent Life initiative, which made unprecedented strides in enhancing the lives of the segments of society most in need in full coordination with civil society institutions, businessmen, and the private sector. All of that came as part of a comprehensive and sustainable cooperation strategy.

The Human Development Report on Egypt was honest; it did not hide any truth or conceal any weaknesses. It did not claim that things are rosy in Egypt, as many challenges remain despite the relative improvement, especially in terms of poverty rate, unemployment and inflation amid that steep rise in the number of residents.

There are also the issues of slums, services being granted to those who deserve them, the question of subsidies and others. All of that points to the fact that the Egyptian leadership wants to announce these issues and has nothing to hide. The problem will not be solved overnight, and patience is needed to pick the fruits of the efforts being made. Still, the conclusion is that any fair evaluation of the report will make the difference between the Egypt of 2014 and that of 2021 abundantly clear. It reveals the pace of reforms and affirms that the country is on the path to realizing Egypt Vision 2030. Despite all the challenges, the country will enter a new era that its people’s efforts deserve, allowing them to do away with the “spring’s” ramifications.

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