Egypt’s crisis deserves a better set of calculations

We need achievable goals that we can see before we die, we need what is known as SMART goals.


Nader Bakkar
13 January 2013

In the current political scene, neither the elected authority nor the opposition can assume that they have sufficient experience to fulfil their obligations amidst the tremendous clouds of unprecedented blur that engulf the whole scene at large. The Muslim Brothers have had no practice in managing the country before. Nor have the others actually tried any really influential opposition under the former regime. Consequently, everyone is honour bound to evaluate their performance in the previous period and to extract the most important lessons they need for enhancing their performance over the coming period.

The presidential institution is in dire need of bridges of trust, not just between itself and the opposition but most importantly between itself and the ordinary citizen. Their chosen method hitherto of summoning the street to intervene in order to maintain legitimacy will not for long withstand the need to have a method for fast tactical achievements that the vast majority awaits with impatience.

The opposition, on the other hand, needs to puzzle out ways of convincing the Egyptian electorate – in the coming period – that they are capable of presenting logical solutions to all the crises raiding the country; on top of which comes the economic crisis.  This is what they ought to do, rather than just resorting to satirizing the Islamic currents or consuming themselves with futile attempts to clear them out of their path.

This short-sighted and exceedingly selfish approach is indeed logically absurd! It draws little or no distinction between hating the Islamic currents, rejecting the flimsy performance of the government and coming up with practices that can lead to overthrowing the whole economy of the country.  Just compare the performance of the Egyptians or the Arabs of the Gulf and the performance of any other Egyptians inside or outside Egypt.  You will find them talking in a very strange way about how ready they are to stop making any bank transfers to Egypt as punitive measures against the regime!

No one owns the economy!  Not the Muslim Brothers, not the Muslims and not anyone else!  All rational people have to agree that any political disputes must fade now into the background of the national scene!  Everybody must stand in a single pack if the red-alert code is looming over our economic infrastructure.  We must all come to a common sense which prevents our disputes from turning into the kind of obstinacy that can bring down our homes in rubble around our heads and those of the generations to come.

Worse than Brazil?

I am sure that our economic situation will never get any worse than the situation Brazil was in before 2002 – before the first presidential term of Da Silva – because the debts of Brazil to the World Bank at that time were way above $20 billion. After that Brazil adjusted the debt to $14 billion.

The opposition media has been playing a lousy role for two whole weeks now - spreading rumours that can be summed up in the statement of Rania Al-Mashaat (CBE deputy) in recent days, “In the last few days we had unjustified speculation and demands on the foreign currency because of news and rumours about the credit rating and postponement of the IMF’s loan!”

As for recent ministerial amendments, instead of contributing to easing the crisis as intended they have only made things worse for the foreseeable future.  I will not comment on the choice of new ministers, since I obviously do not understand the criteria for choosing them!  Just as no one really understands the criteria for evaluating the performance of those who were dismissed.

A very simple solution to all this might lie in pursuing the ‘transparency policy’ with every step taken by the executive authority; starting with the scale of the challenges faced by the government, taking in the mysterious visit to the UAE at the time when we have dozens of Egyptians detained in Saudi Arabia without any specific charges, and without accruing the honour we might expect from such visits, and ending with the real reasons that led to dismissing this particular bunch of ministers while keeping some others.

The other alternative to a ‘transparency policy’ would be just to open the doors fully to any speculations or question marks aimed at poisoning the political environment, which might destroy whatever remains of the trust-bridge, without any further justification.

What concerns me now mostly is achievement; and achievements cannot be done without a deadline.  The method of ‘management by objectives’ is what we want to hear these days from our government.  The ordinary citizen, along with the politician or the economist, will not give much heed to the number of meetings attended by ministers. The number of working hours of every minister will not be a persuasive criterion either. Even achieving the general objectives goes without saying.  

But for instance, we no longer want the government to tell us that it seeks to achieve social justice as one of its top objectives; the logical thing is to disclose more details that we can measure using a deadline or any other method for measurement.  We need achievable goals that we can see before we die, we need what is known as SMART goals.

As Geary W. Sikich puts it in his book, All Hazards, “Management is never put more strongly to the test than in a crisis situation!”  Indeed many crises have put the government of Hesham Qandil to the test one after the other.  They all proved that this government significantly lacks the mentality for quick solutions. One of the most important levers for anyone seeking a speedy solution is to form a crisis management team, on the level of the ministries, and another one for quick intervention in the daily life problems that will never be solved in the obsolete or traditional ways.

As for the chronic problems, we need to confront them through long-term plans that the ministries can go through at a steady pace regardless of how many times the ministers change.  We can never survive a change of vision every four months, particularly with the economic ministry whose members are so hyper-sensitive when it comes to impact.

If the changes in personnel in the economic ministerial group are designed to have any real effect then we need to define a vision.  Perhaps the president’s decision to establish a Council for Economic Development, as a subsidiary for the presidency, could contribute to this vision even though it is a double-edged sword.  On the one hand it will be a mechanism for quick presidential intervention, in cases of economic crisis, to impose a particular vision pursued by the country for the coming four-year period; on the other hand it could perhaps  provide a kind of creative chaos for this group in the absence of integrated visions.

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