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Building your own state
Building your own state
When my father decided to buy a farm in the suburbs of Cairo and live there a few years ago, his justification was that if you decide to live in Egypt, you should be ready to
Friday, September 26,2008 06:23
by Ibrahim Al-Houdaiby Daily Star

When my father decided to buy a farm in the suburbs of Cairo and live there a few years ago, his justification was that if you decide to live in Egypt, you should be ready to build your own state. I must admit it took me years to understand what he meant.

To secure a decent, respectable life in Egypt, one should never depend on the state. The state’s revenue mainly made up of taxes, tariffs and foreign aid, and the state’s different apparatuses do not function to serve Egyptians, but rather a few hundred influential politicians and businessmen. The state’s role starts by providing security for its citizens, residents and visitors. Mubarak’s regime increasingly fails to do so. Not only is the police unable to prevent the mounting number of crimes, but it also participates in threatening people’s safety through torture and corruption.

The last thing an Egyptian citizen is willing to do is going to a police station. Egyptians therefore choose to settle their disputes without any police intervention; starting with car accidents, all the way to murder crimes. Spending on security eats up to 40 percent of the government’s budget, but the money does not contribute to the peace and security of the country. Rather, it is used to reward the loyalty of high ranking officers who crack down on the regime’s political opponents.

Those who do not illustrate equivalent levels of political loyalty and are not willing to resort to extralegal measures with political opposition easily find their way to early retirement.

Egypt’s regime also fails to provide for necessary health care. Admission into state-run hospitals is likely to cost one his life. Lack of facilities as well as pathetic management have a lethal effect on the performance of medical institutions. The contaminated blood bags scandal (in which a ruling party’s MP was involved, but finally acquitted and found not guilty following the sudden death of the judge one month before the verdict was to be announced) has only mounted to additional worries to average Egyptians unable to resort to private hospitals.

Public educational institutions are no better. Not a single Egyptian university made it to the top 500 universities worldwide, and over 40 percent of Egyptians are still illiterate. University professors are threatening to go on strike, protesting an extremely low monthly pay ranging between $40 and $150. New enrollments have at least quadrupled over the past couple of decades, while facilities remained the same, leading to an acute deterioration in the quality of education.

Even the food and water provided by the state can kill you. Fruits and vegetables imported by the state are reported to be carcinogenic. Drinking water is insufficient in several places, including different districts of Cairo. It is also mixed with the sewage system in some places.

Egyptians who have been patient for so long have started moving against this regime. The past few months witnessed a series of strikes of workers, professionals and university graduates protesting unemployment, increasing prices and low wages, and several calls for general strikes.

The regime has used various measures to silence these protests; sometimes using its security forces to crack down on protestors, and at other times complying to protestors’ demands. Yet no structural measures of reform have been taken. The regime is still pursuing an aggressive economic neoliberal capitalist approach but still upholds an absolute absence of the necessary political liberalization and democratization that provides for the necessary checks and balances, transparency and accountability.

The outcome is nothing but expected: monopolies for business cronies and an unhealthy investment climate for others.

My father decided to move into a small farm where we can breathe some fresh air, plant some fruits and vegetables for home consumption, build a fence and hire a guard to protect us. He is still a good law-abiding citizen, despite knowing he will never get his rights. But one should not expect that all Egyptians will do the same. The vast majority will find it justifiable that as long as the state does not fulfill its responsibility they won’t fulfill theirs.

The state’s inability to fulfill its responsibilities due to the regime’s focus on securing its leaders’ survival might lead to anarchy, while leading official figures in the West still insist on supporting the regime against its own people.

Ibrahim Al-Houdaibyis board member of ikhwanweb.com, the English website of the Muslim Brotherhood group.

 


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