Written By: Shazia Patel (South Africa)
Edited By: Basma Fawzy, Mona Timor Shehata
“Without effort, ambition, and clear business goals, for yourself, your community, your country or whomsoever you intend to benefit, you are less likely to achieve. The only real way to climb up the ladder is to optimize your time, utilize your resources, be prepared to chip a nail and buy a new pair of running shoes to always keep moving forward.”
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” George Orwell.
Do we need to create more opportunities for lower and middle class upliftment?
The nature of capitalism dictates that economic equality within a country is a somewhat idealistic concept, and that one’s success is based on the number of all-nighters one has pulled or whether or not one has stumbled upon a lucky lottery ticket. The Egyptian take on this tried-and-tested economic system is somewhat warped, with all the ends not securely tied. Why?
My proposal is that there is effort invested in the pursuit of success, but there is little room for ascension on the rungs of the ladder.
The Arab Republic of Egypt is currently in possession of a report card with the score of 80/120 under Power Distance Index (PDI.) Basically, people with very little power are easily accepting or expecting unequal power distribution in the country. Consequently, Egyptians have the subconscious idea that the endurance of large power divides will ensure their being limited to their current socio-economic status (SES.) Is this the possible reason for the fact that lower and middle class members of society limit themselves to small, in expansible businesses? These enterprises often serve the same function as one another and are bound to become redundant which leads us to this – Is the everyday Egyptian simply lacking ambition, or has opportunity not knocked on his/her door yet?
Though Egypt’s GDP has remained fairly stable in past years, the population growth has been massive. This means that the GDP per capita has decreased significantly. Egypt limits its own economy by having few opportunities on comparing the ratio of middle to high paying job level. Many are stuck in the lower and middle classes which leaves this sector of society not optimally contributing to the flow of money in the country. Is this not contributing to the growth of the wealth divide between the lavish and the impoverished? Is it not something worthy of being questioned on a government level? I certainly think so.
It seems government can do more to help the layman, especially since citizens have been ‘outsourcing’ basic services from NGOs and the private sector. This default plan can only be detrimental. It makes the people take more precious paper out of their own wallets just for their daily halawa* and crème caramel. On the other hand, the private sector has a far greater target market because people now HAVE to use their services which fattens up the private sectors’ Louis Vuitton wallets right under our noses. What do you know? SOCIOECONOMIC DIVIDE.
NGOs are also not the answer. Their resources are limited and their support not always ensured.
Your wallet should not bear the brunt of an inefficient system.
One such basic service of which people seem to have been deprived of, is adequate schooling. The World Economic Forum currently ranks Egypt as the third worst in the world in their primary education. A lack of education, and, thus, intelligence, brings us back to our original problem: the inability to pull ourselves up the ladder. Perhaps the problem lies not in opportunity, but in the lack of know-how. A water-loose primary education can eventually lead to a lethal flood with Precious Aqua de Vida surging down on you steadily every day of your life. You struggle to breathe because your bills, family, work, religion, and neighbor’s-dog’s-uncle’s-friend’s problems all weigh on your shoulders and you cannot run.
Almost all lower-class Egyptians cannot speak English. This puts them in positions that have little or no interactions with the outside world, and, obviously, these positions do not pay that well, especially because Egypt has been relying heavily on foreign trade and tourism since its political instability period. Is this not a pity? So many good thinkers wasted on a world that does not provide them with opportunities to innovate. A good education is the key to the safe haven in this cut-throat world. We must ensure that we equip our offspring with the “Akl”* to be successful.
The government’s plan is to generate a higher GDP from specific projects and then inject those funds into the different areas of the national budget. I think we need a more holistic approach. For example, the Suez Canal Project is too much of a gamble. There’s no surety that the estimated figures will be any match to the real ones. In fact, the upgrade of the canal only increased its capacity from 78 ships to 97 ships, but the canal was servicing much less than 78 ships previous to the expansion. Most ships were already using the Suez route even though its grandeur was not half what it is now. Why? Because the trip around Africa to get to the same place is a good 10 days longer. So, is the expansion really going to bring as much revenue as estimated? Only time will tell.
I personally would not take a gamble on the GDP. Risks are only acceptable on fashion runways or when buying petty stocks. I think a whole lot of smaller projects generating steady income for the government are more reliable than one big one. We need to innovate to revive the business sector.
There are many ways that Egypt can get out of its self-declared, self-instilled economic rut, but they all need fuel and a spark to start the fire. Without effort, ambition, and clear business goals, for yourself, your community, your country or whomsoever you intend to benefit, you are less likely to achieve. The only real way to climb up the ladder is to optimize your time, utilize your resources, be prepared to chip a nail and buy a new pair of running shoes to always keep moving forward.
*halawa – Egyptian dessert made of sesame seeds (Halva)
*Akl – Arabic word for food