A lot of people complain that the government has no vision in regards to how to bounce back our economy, and is instead acting as if the revolution never happened and everything is Business as usual. For 4 months now I awaited a single decent economic plan, or even emergency economic measures (like temporary welfare packages to the lower classes to be able to feed itself until “stability” takes place, or a stimulus package to the small and medium size businesses to keep them afloat for a few months and not have to fire any people), but of course that’s as likely as them inspecting the old budget or trying to find where the public waste or corruption is in it, and cut those costs. In case you didn’t know, the new budget is like the old budget exactly, except that they are spending more money, and borrowing to cover it up, and not reducing the costs on anything. God knows that after reviewing our budget, I realized that if I was running a business the way the Egyptian government was running its finances, I would’ve been out of businesses years ago. That being said, expecting the government to come up with good plans is as likely as The Police starting to act like respectable responsible humans and go to work without abusing anyone: It’s not going to happen. So , instead of pointing out their flaws, which any idiot with a functioning brain can do, I will offer here some ideas of things we can do. This will cover a whole number of sectors, and the idea is to do more with what we already have and encourage that lost wheel of production to be found and to go round and round again. Let’s begin, shall we?
Idea # 1: LET’S PAY PEOPLE FOR THEIR TRASH!
Here is the concept in a nutshell: We live in a country of 85 million consumers, and they consume lots of goods and produce a huge amount of trash, many of which never gets recycled or used correctly, outside of Cairo’s Zabaleen community, which are the most brilliant people this country has in a while produced. But instead of being Cairo-focused, let’s go nationwide. Instead of people paying to have their trash collected, instead we will pay them money for their trash. We will provide trash cans everywhere that will divide the trash into organic and non-organic (with all of its variations) all over Egypt, and teach people how to separate their trash effectively. Then, once a week, the Trash cars come, and start paying people by the kilo for their trash, provided that they have separated it first. The trucks then leave to one of many huge factories that will be built all over Egypt, where the non-organic trash will be divided and recycled again into plastics, aluminum, papers, etc.. to be sold in the market to factories again, and the organic trash will be taken and processed to produce methane gas that will be turned into electricity that will power up the different production lines in the factory, which would reduce the energy needs of the factory dramatically or possibly eliminate it all together. Zero Waste! This idea will do the following : 1) Put money in the hands of all Egyptians for their trash, and actually give them incentive to pick up any litter anywhere in their neighborhoods, because, you know, there’s money to be made off of it now, 2) Hire thousands of workers- because this will be nationwide- who will drive the collection trucks, collect the trash and pay the people, re-separate the trash at the factory, man the recycling production lines, and sales people who will sell the recycled resources to the other factories or the people and 3) Make Egypt cleaner, reduce the horrible pollution from Trash burning and increase efficiency in the usage of our resources. And if you are worried on the business of the Zabaleen, don’t worry; we will simply subcontract Cairo to them. We won’t mess with their system; just integrate them into the cycle. I spoke to people in the IFC about this months ago, and they seemed really excited about the idea, but I don’t think it went anywhere. I am presenting it here again.
Idea #2: LET’S GET OUT OF CAIRO NOW!
I love Cairo. Well, I love Cairo at night. Like maybe from 10 pm till 4 am. The rest of the time, I am starting to hate Cairo: It’s a city overloaded with people (25 million residents, 1/3 of Egypt’s population almost) and Cars, and the centralization of all resources and business on the expense of the rest of the country has not benefitted anyone: The Cairo people are unhappy with how overpopulated and polluted their city is, and complain daily about the hellish traffic, and the rest of the country believes Cairo takes up all the economic development to itself. And the thing is, even when the Cairenes try to leave Cairo, they just go to 6 October or New Cairo, which are Cairo suburbs, and thus Cairo-centric as well, which now means that the traffic isn’t just in Cairo, it’s also facing anyone leaving Cairo, making Cairo a Blackhole of soul-sucking and misery. Let’s change that dramatically by moving entire industries to other areas of the country, and thus creating new cities, new pockets of development, and get people out of Cairo for good and for real this time (none of that 6th of October Crap). For example, let’s move the entire IT and technology industry to the North Coast, and build a huge IT and Technology focused city – our very own Silicon Valley- right behind all of those touristic villages that we only use 3 months a year. That whole area already has paved roads, communication lines, utilities connected to it for those touristic villages, so we will simply need to scale up the existing infrastructure instead of building it from scratch, and it will provide the restaurants, shops and clubs in the area of round the year customers. The IT people will love it, because it takes them out of the city and places them on the beach, the shop owners will love it because it will provide more sources of income for them, the population there will love it because it will mean more jobs whether in construction, factories or companies that will be erected, and the owners will love it because many of them will rent their property all year long instead of a measly 3 months, which will provide them with a higher return on their investments, and a ton of new service-based businesses (banks, car dealerships, retail stores, etc) will open up to serve this new and high-earning population. Another industry we could move elsewhere could be the movie industry, which we could move to Sinai, where huge studios can be built to cater for the Egyptian cinema industry and international cinema companies who will want to film in Egypt instead of Morocco, and thus also hire thousands of people. All the artists, directors, music composers, production people will be moved there, and thus creating the Egyptian Hollywood. And it won’t just be for cinema, it can host the entire media industry, including TV stations, Music companies, and production houses. A city for the arts, on the beach, attracting business and tourism. I would live there, leaving Cairo behind to rot forever! I think you would too.
Idea #3: LET’S GIVE THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT A CORRUPTION COLONIC!
It’s an idea I presented before here, and let’s present it again: The biggest hurdle against new businesses creation is the amount of corruption that exists in all levels of government, which means that if you want to start a new businesses, you have to pay a lot of bribes on many levels. A friend of mine once told me that Egypt is unique in the sense that while in most countries you pay bribes to get more than what’s rightfully yours, in Egypt you pay bribes to get what’s rightfully yours, and it’s true. Hell, if you want to open a new restaurant, there are about 18 different bribes to 18 different government officials that you must pay in order for them to let you open and hire people. If we hope to live in a better country, we need to remove all the bribe-taking individuals from our entire government, and our very scared Businesses men – who paid their fair share there- can lead the way. I want the Businessmen to unify and call for a truth and reconciliation initiative, where they will report every single bribe they paid to a government official in exchange for amnesty, and call on the rest of the population- because he didn’t have to pay some sort of a bribe to get things done here?- to do the same, and thus flush out every single corrupt government official out of the government once and for all, and highlight the weak points in Egyptian bureaucracy that allow such corruption to take place, and take measures against it, and simplify the process. This will also allow the government to get rid of many of its corrupt employees, which means that more openings in government jobs will become available, and the government can reduce its really high salary costs without bothering with early-retirement plans for people who are criminal parasites and have held the economic development of the country hostage for years. And if the businessmen or anyone for that matter, benefitted from that system, they should pay back the money they made off such corruption to the government or society, by funding social projects that benefit the country. Everybody wins!
Idea #4: LET’S HAVE A REAL SPORTS INDUSTRY!
The Sports industry in Egypt is a paradox that I can’t figure out, especially the football industry. Here is what happens: The Sporting clubs, with their football teams, are technically owned by the government, and the government funds them with half a billion pounds a year directly, without the money ever going back to the government, but rather to the Football Union. The Money from the games of the Egyptian leagues, the sponsorships and the TV broadcasting rights never goes back to the government, but rather to the corrupt Football union, whose budget- comprised of all the aforementioned items and the money it gets from the government- is its own to manage and waste, based on their personal preference, without any oversight, and thus they can fund a club like Ahly highly, while give peanuts to a club like ElEsmaely. This is why many clubs have to rely on charity from its fans to get players and compete, while their board of directors get to allocate their budgets towards benefitting themselves, friends or family members. And let’s not even talk about government institutions Football teams. Has no one ever wondered why the hell does a government owned Oil company like Enpi have a football team? Or Why does the Police, or the army, or the border guards have one? Isn’t that a waste of public resources and money? YOUR MONEY?
Instead of that stupid structure, let’s do the only thing that makes sense: The Government must stop wasting money on the sporting teams of the Oil companies and government institutions, and offer the rest of the actual sporting clubs up for privatization, selling 80% of their shares for example, and keeping 20% as a silent partner, or giving it to the members. Can you imagine how much money the government can make from selling a team like AlAhly or Zamalek to investors? Billions. Money that they can use to fund the criminally under-funded sport-centers and-god forbid- our Olympic teams. And those investors who will buy the clubs will start running the football teams correctly: We are talking real broadcasting rights negotiations, Factories creating sports merchandising, and team and club development, which in turn will develop the cities the clubs are in (Have businessmen build new stadiums for example, instead of lamenting our shitty government-built ones). Hell, we could then afford actually buying expensive international players and have them play in the Egyptian league: Imagine Ronaldo playing for the Alexandria sporting club vs. AlAhly with Messi in its ranks. We would elevate the game, start industries, and maybe even fund other sports, like, I don’t know, Basketball. All of it taxed. As for the Football Union, it would be comprised of the reps of club owners, who will make sure that no club gets favorite treatment over another, and that the resources are not wasted, because it will be THEIR MONEY. We could change the game, forever!
Idea #5: LET’S FUND OUR COUNTRY!
We agreed that we can’t depend on the anything, fine. Let’s fund our country ourselves. Let’s create “Patriotic Funds”, a huge fund per governorate that everyone can buy shares in, and that will take the money and invest them in two things: investment projects that the governorate needs, and development projects like schools or hospitals. The Income generated from their investment projects will find the development projects and provide a modest return of maybe 5% for their investors, who will be ok with it since they will see their governorate creating new jobs and factories, and having new decent public schools and hospitals getting built. Schools and Jobs for their kids. Or, we can have a law that states that every business should donate a tax-deductable 2 or 3% of its revenue to an actual social project ( a school, a hospital, infrastructure of an underdeveloped area), instead of PR campaigns like the current Egyptian companies do with their CSR budgets, and the government can supervise the projects. Simple!
Idea# 6: LET’S BRING THOSE EGYPTIAN EXPATS BACK FOR A VISIT!
This is an idea that a young enterprising man named Ahemd Fattouh said to me once, and I will present it here: Why not create a special Friday event, where we call on all Egyptians who live abroad to come down to Egypt and have their own Tahrir experience? And what better time to do this other than next September for the elections? Instead of worrying whether or not they will be able to vote, we should invite those Egyptians abroad to come back to Egypt for a week to vote and enjoy the country’s beaches or touristic sights. By doing that they will 1) ensure that their votes count and 2) provide a much needed boost to our Tourism industry, which desperately need it now. If you get 2 million out of the 12 million Egyptians who live abroad back, and each spends 3000$ on the trip, that’s 6 billion dollars entering the country right there. And we will host festivals and concerts to celebrate their homecoming and their participation, and enticing them to come back for, I don’t know, new years, or quite possibly for the Jan25 one year anniversary celebration next year! The world will see that Egypt is now safe to come back to, and if the tourism companies provide good packages to entice the tourists, our tourism will come back full force!
Idea # 7: LET’S PROVIDE OUR PEOPLE WITH FOOD SECURITY!
The reasons why we have a food-shortage in Egypt is due to three things: 1)We have a population that refuses to stop increasing, 2) We don’t have enough farmland to feed this population and 3) we don’t have enough water to create new farmland. Nothing can be done regarding the population thing, since we believe it’s our god-given right to compete with bunnies in terms of birth-rate. Fine, so we have to create new farmland in order to provide food security, which we can’t do without more water. So, it all comes down to water. But the question is: do we really not have enough water? Or are we simply wasting what we have? Well, anyone who works in agriculture will tell you that we waste our water ridiculously, because many farmers insist of just flooding their farmland with water, instead of using irrigation system that will efficiently water their crops without wasting our most valuable resource. Actually, if we make it a law that all farmlands need to have irrigation systems, not only could we cut down our waste, we could have enough water to at least double our farmland with ease! And they shouldn’t pay for it, the government should provide it for them, especially the poor farmers that depend on the Agricultural assurance bank. And while we are at it, here is a question: how come no one has ever used the lands surrounding Lake-Nasser as farmland? We are talking hundreds of thousands of acres, with water access right there. The movement of water in Lake Nasser to farm that land will ensure that we don’t lose 7% of our water reserves to vaporization, like we do right now, because it won’t be sitting still and will be used to farm that surrounding land, and thus increase our farmland and provide us with more produce, which will be sent to factories for packaging and ensure our food security. And since we are talking about Lake Nasser and food security, why not take advantage of the huge amount of fish that lives there? Do you know how much a Kilo of Fish costs in Aswan? 7 LE. Do you know how much it costs in Cairo? 23 LE! We could create an entire fishing industry, build a factory that will put the fish in cartons and ship it in frozen trucks or trains to be sold all over Egypt, feeding everyone cheaply, and to hell with the Cholesterol-inducing super-expensive red meat consumption, which in turn will lower the demand on it and make it more affordable to all Egyptians. New Farmland, new factories, more jobs and food security, and it won’t cost much. Why don’t we do it?
Just think about it!