Squandered Opportunities

Squandered Opportunities

Dr Mohamed Fouad

Dr Mohamed Fouad

Over the past 3 years, there may have been numerous instances when Egypt has taken the wrong turn. Some of those wasted chances are indeed lamentable. The bitter irony is that 32 months following 25 Jan, there isn’t a single concrete aspect in Egypt that justifies the soaring death tolls, the economic stalemate, the degradation of state security and worsening living conditions. We should stop and ask ourselves, where we went wrong. We cannot simply allow ourselves to continue getting caught in the heat of the moment, living the daily grind, getting our media fix and clinging on that empty hope that tomorrow will be a better day. This is not an invitation for depression but simply an invitation to contemplate and ask the question: Was it all for nothing?

Never Asking: What’s Next?

The calls for the removal of President Hosni Mubarak although justifiable in some sense, never really considered what would be the roadmap thereafter. In the midst of the crowds motivated by mixed emotions of hope and hatred, there were some who knew the game can play in their favour. The moment it was announced that Mubarak has stepped down, there were jubilations and celebrations. I was taken aback realising that the dizzying events never allowed us to fully answer the question: What’s next? Fortunately, following 30 June, the army acted swiftly to disallow the same situation from happening again by proposing a roadmap of the events to be.

Never Having a Priority

The moment Mubarak was out, our reforming process has adopted the “Open Buffet” approach, where people gathered so many issues on their plates than they can chew and ultimately getting nothing achieved. Consecutive weak governments made matters worse by allowing people to completely derail them from achieving anything let alone setting any feasible objectives. Government officials were too busy placating the masses and obeying revolutionary thoughts; although, at times these thoughts were absurd, they continue following them to avoid rocking the boat, even though that boat was already sinking. There was chaos everywhere with people demanding things such as: Salary increases, reforming of the police force, media reforms, and judiciary reforms to list a few. The country suddenly fell under a growing demand and diminishing resources and the system just went into hibernation to preserve itself from collapsing.

Always Carrying a Vendetta

The masses succumbed to the campaigns of flame and shame. Everyone associated in any way with the old regime was labeled a bad guy. The overall change management approach has always been to eradicate and confront rather than reform. Even within the ranks of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood, the same mistake has occurred. The reformists within the Brotherhood were shoved aside in favour of the old guard; as Political Science Professor Carrie Rosefsky Wickham noted: “Sacrifice, loyalty and obedience counted more than competence”.

Bottom Line

It is great to hope for tomorrow to be a better day; one cannot live otherwise. However, without carefully assessing the mistakes of the past, one is also bound to repeat them. The evidence on the ground suggests that we have a lot of learning to take in. In a poll conducted by Gallup two weeks before former president Morsi was deposed, 80% of Egyptians interviewed said that their country was worse off than it was when Mubarak has stepped down and 50% believed that their country will still be worse off in five years. Now, if you frankly have to ask the question: Was it all for nothing? Sad as it is, I think you have the answer. Now, do something about it.

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