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Handing out failure
Handing out failure
The state assets management plan floated by Egypt’s National Democratic Party is nothing but a failure, not only because of the way the project was announced, as it seemed that the party is still living in the 1950s and 1960s when people used to be taken by surprise, but also because it torpedoes everything the government has done over the past four years in terms of the privatization and liberalization of the Egyptian economy.
Wednesday, December 3,2008 02:32
by Khalil Al-Anani DailyStarEgypt.com

The state assets management plan floated by Egypt’s National Democratic Party is nothing but a failure, not only because of the way the project was announced, as it seemed that the party is still living in the 1950s and 1960s when people used to be taken by surprise, but also because it torpedoes everything the government has done over the past four years in terms of the privatization and liberalization of the Egyptian economy.

I won’t get into the details of the project which seem to be ambiguous even to the government itself. The sole advocate of this project is Investment Minister Mahmoud Mohieddin, who has thrown himself into the heart of a storm that will not abate until he announces the death of the project.

I will just quickly review a few points. First, it is illogical to allow people to own part of the shares in public sector companies at a time when people are incapable of managing or controlling part of their own budget.

Secondly, the purpose of this project can be either of two: the ruling National Democratic Party leaders have suddenly realized that the policies of privatization and economic liberalization have not achieved the required social justice, and therefore they decided to backtrack on it by attempting to engage the people in the management of public property.

It could also be that the NDP tycoons want to speed up the privatization program and the sale of public sector companies with the help of the people, not through their own companies. They are certain that many will resell their shares to them in the future.

The question here is: where did the profits and proceeds from the sale of the former companies go? Why are these profits not handed out retroactively within the proposed securities plan?

Thirdly, I believe that the main motive behind this project is the attempt of the NDP’s new guard to appease the old guard, who seem to be complaining about the neo-liberal policies that have widened the economic gap between the rich and the poor in an unprecedented way, harming the government and contributing to the erosion of the current regime’s legitimacy.

Therefore, it was not surprising that the word “social justice” was repeated more than once in President Mubarak’s speech at the opening of the new parliamentary session two weeks ago.

It is a malicious attempt by the young guard to take control of what is left of the legacy of the old regime, so that if the people reject the securities plan they will find an excuse to move ahead, uninhibited, with the privatization policies.

We have repeatedly said that the dilemma of the NDP is that it does not realize that times have changed and that people are no longer naïve. They must understand that democracy cannot be traded for a bunch of vouchers.

Since the coupons experience has proved unsuccessful in most countries of the world, why is it repeated in Egypt?

This is a question I hope the investment minister, who I believe is both experienced and well-educated, will answer.

Khalil Al-Anani is an Egyptian expert on political Islam and democratization in the Middle East and is a senior fellow at Al-Ahram Foundation. E-mail: [email protected]


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