“The police had confiscated a spy-duck.”
This was how my reporters greeted me five days ago. At first I thought it was another pun by DNE’s wily reporters until they showed me the links in Arabic; the police confiscated a duck carrying a “strange” device.
Two days later, after the intervention of animal activists, the duck turned out to be a stork with a migration tracking device from Hungary. As expected, the Egyptian good humour kicked into high drive, ridiculing the police and the government.
To be honest, this incident did not propel me into laughter, rather sadness; out there is someone, be it a civilian or a police officer, who did not know what a tracking device is and sincerely believed it was a “spy-duck”. This level of ignorance is heart-wrenching, making people susceptible to believing almost anything and anyone.
Dr Beblawi’s government is expected to formulate a plan which the next government, formed in four months following the elections, should build on. But so far the government has not offered Egyptians anything and is wallowing in the murky waters of opaque statements.
The threats Egypt is currently facing, and which are being ignored by the government, lie not with spies and conspiracy theories, but with the following factors:
1-Lack of transparency; following the tradition of Mubarak-era governments, Beblawi’s government is currently working in the dark. There is no clear communication between it and the public. No one knows for sure what is happening inside the cabinet except for vague press conferences held by the cabinet’ spokesman every week. No plans have been announced except for the general outline of “enhancing economy” and “securing the country”. Egyptians will not tolerate being treated as infants. To be part of the decision-making process of any government is the essence of a democratic country.
2- Slow decision making process; the current government seems to be extremely slow in making decisions; it took them weeks to reach the decision to disperse the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins, which despite the time taken to deliberate was not even that well-planned, leading to the death of over 1000 civilians and 70 officers. The majority of the Egyptian people are under 40 years old, making it a very young nation, thus slow actions are not well-received. Change, and at a fast pace, is expected by the unemployed young people who want to have a better life; to be able to make ends meet, to get married and have children, and live a dignified life. People are impatient and the slow pace of the current government is feeding this impatience.
3-The Ministry of Interior: one of the main reasons why Mubarak and Morsi were brought down by the people was the atrocities inflicted by the Ministry of Interior, AKA the ministry of torture. Yet, despite this, Beblawi’s government is choosing to avoid any attempt at true reform of the ministry. What happened after 30 June and the ousting of Morsi is no more than a cosmetic procedure; a reconciliation with the police force deeply scorned following the 25 January revolution. Officers were carried on people’s shoulders after facing off with armed Muslim Brotherhood supporters. It is expected for Egyptians to empathise with the officers, but when the dust settles and the police is back to “normal” dealings with civilians, what should we expect? Is it possible to assume that the police force miraculously changed into law-abiding officers adhering to protecting the rights of civilians? Or is the current government, following Mubarak and Morsi, waiting for a catastrophe to happen before taking action?
The ministry itself suffers from enormous internal problems; there are many officers being disciplined out of spite because there is no clear system of reprimand, some officers can barely make ends meet while others are given high salaries, their bonus system is not clear to many young officers as well as how field assignments are distributed, and nepotism is a legacy in this ministry in particular.
Thus restructuring it is a must, for both the benefit of officers and civilians. Many human rights and legal organisations have offered plans and initiatives to help with this very hard process, but have been completely ignored. Unfortunately, ignoring this particular problem will not make it go away. It requires courage to face off with this kind of corruption.
Without security, no economy will survive.
4-Economy; the current economic situation in Egypt is dire. When Bebalwi was chosen as PM, it was mainly for his economic expertise. Together with his vice president, Ziad Bahaa El-Din who headed the Investment Authority, Ahmed Galal the minister of finance, Osama Saleh the minister of investment and Ashraf A-Arabi the minister of planning were the nucleus of a promising economic master plan that would save Egypt’s ailing financial system. So far, Egyptians have been on the receiving end of chopped news reports on different decisions taken by the ministries separately. So far, Egyptians have not been offered the much anticipated financial plan, not even a brief of what it is all about. Except for aid and grants from the Gulf States, nothing much has changed.
It has been almost a month since the dispersal of the Rabaa and Nahda sit-ins that the government accused of stopping the flow of money, which of course they were, but what has been done since? Egyptians want to know where they stand. People are suffering from extreme poverty and even tourism, which is the saviour of Egyptian economy, is barely tangible, while the government takes its sweet time making decisions. I, as a citizen, demand to know what Beblawi’s government is planning for the economy and I believe many suffering Egyptians will concur.
5- Education: the education system in Egypt has been suffering for years. The problem now is that we cannot afford more ignorant generations. In Egypt, people believe that gaining an educational certificate is what constitutes becoming educated. What is being ignored is the fact that there are 11-year- old enrolled students who can barely read and write, teenagers who drop out of school to work and make ends meet, college graduates who spend four or more years studying only to wind up working in fast-food joints. There are few technical schools, thus most enrol in academic colleges and are offered poor quality education and end up working in a completely different fields; a waste of time, money and energy. Reforming education is a must if Egypt wants to move forward and this reform will take years thus a plan is needed now on addressing all the above-mentioned problems and the others that I have failed to cover. An educated individual is less susceptible to the influence of extremist religious zealots, politicians, public figures and even the media.
6- Women; the late Egyptian Poet Hafez Ibrahim said: “A mother is like a school, if well-prepared, you prepare a nation.”
This in short explains how important women were viewed decades ago.
In Egypt, the term mother can loosely encompass the majority of the female population, for even those who have not given birth are expected – due to dire economic conditions – to take care of their siblings, nephews and cousins. Women make life possible in Egypt; the majority of them handle the household finances while they work, get pregnant and take care of the men in their lives. Women in the work force in Egypt, is not a luxury or a journey of self-discovery where she finds her true self. It is rather a necessity for several households, at any given time, rely on her.
Meanwhile, this woman who is already more burdened than most suffers sexual harassment on a daily basis on the streets, is under-represented in the constituent assembly currently modifying the 2012 constitution with only five female representatives out of the 50 members, and is barely present in the cabinet where there are only three female minsters. Laws combating sexual harassment exist but are not implemented, because you need the support of the police for this matter. The personal status law is Egypt is quite unfair to Egyptian women, not allowing her easy divorce procedures, child support and when remarrying she risks losing custody of her minor children.
Women in Egypt are treated badly by the government except for when needed in international conferences to show the progress of the country. We have signed almost all the international declarations safeguarding the rights of women. Only we rarely implement them.
Egyptian women have paid dearly in 25 January revolution, risking life and limb next to the men and burying husbands and sons, but in post-revolutionary Egypt, they barely exist. Sacrifice is acceptable and demanded from them in dire times, but representation in the state decision-making positions is not necessary.
What Beblawi’s government can do for women is implement the laws that safeguard their rights, draft new laws to ensure severe punishment against abusers, rapists and harassers and most important to use state media to spread awareness on women issues. Educating the public is an integral part of enhancing the status of women in society. Reprimand and awareness are the axis of the true path to better women’s lives.
The current government can do a lot. On its shoulders lies the responsibility of paving the road to a real civilian country.
So to Dr Beblawi’s government, we say, “show us the plan”.