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Egypt 2022: The Challenge to Modernize Local Governance System

There are many reasons to be optimistic about Egypt in the year 2022. The national projects, which are driven by the sincere desire of President El-Sisi to improve living conditions for all citizens, have already started to pay off. However, to guarantee the durability and sustainability of the successful state-sponsored national projects and their outcomes, the time has come for the Egyptian state to prioritize restructuring and modernizing the local governance system. Otherwise, the current Egyptian renaissance is doomed to relapse on the feet of the deep-rooted administrative corruption at local municipality councils, sooner or later.

Despite the heavy weight of the COVID-19 pandemic on national economies, worldwide, Egypt is one of a handful number of countries that ended the year 2021 with a budget surplus, estimated by 1.5%. According to the Egyptian Central Bank data, Egypt’s foreign cash reserves exceeded US$40 billion and the Egyptian Pound maintained a stable position against the dollar throughout 2021.

In a recent report, the International Monetary Fund expected that Egypt, in 2022, will be the second largest economy in Africa, after Nigeria, and the second largest economy in all Arab countries, after Saudi Arabia, with a record Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that exceeds US$ 438 billion.

Over the years from 2017 to 2021, Egypt has grown as a hub for exporting energy to its neighbors across the Mediterranean, Africa, and the Red Sea; in particular Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and electricity. Five years ago, Egypt successfully transformed from a country suffering from electricity shortages and frequent power outages to a country that produces electricity with a surplus of 25 megawatts over domestic consumption needs. In addition, the new solar energy projects in Upper Egypt promise to increase this production volume and turn Egypt into a hub for exporting energy to eastern and central Africa, in the next few years.

Meanwhile, the eastern Mediterranean countries with high volumes of LNG consumption, such as Turkey, are growing dependent on Egypt for gas supply. According to data published by S&P Global Platts Analytics, in the period between October and December, Egypt shipped to Turkey seven cargos of LNG, extracted from Egyptian plants, in the Mediterranean. At the same time, giant investors in the energy sector, such as Qatar, have started to make direct investments in the Egyptian oil exploration stations of the Red Sea.

Three factors contributed to this hard-to-ignore success of the Egyptian state on socio-economic development. They are (1) the tremendous role of the Armed Forces, as an independent institution, in supporting the state economy and national projects, especially during the peak years of the pandemic, (2) the important role of the Ministry of Interior in restoring security in the internal governorates via dissolving local terrorist organizations and blocking lone-wolf terrorist attacks, especially those targeting Coptic Christians citizens, and (3) state efforts to keep healthy and balanced relations with all neighbors in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Africa.

However, there is only one factor that threatens the collapse of these successes, in the future, if not appropriately addressed by the Egyptian state, today. That is the deep-rooted corruption on the level of local municipality councils. Continuing with the current model of governance, where the central government does all the work with the help of the military institution, threatens that the current social and economic renaissance may relapse on the feet of municipal corruption, as soon as the current state leadership changes.

Egypt has not held municipal elections, since the heavily manipulated elections of 2008; i.e., since the Arab Spring revolution of 2011 that ousted the Mubarak regime. Despite the great efforts exerted by the President and the government, on the national level, to improve living conditions, many citizens are still unable to enjoy the outcomes of state-sponsored projects because of the performance of their corrupt officials at municipal councils.

Therefore, in the year 2022, I would sincerely advise the Egyptian state and President El-Sisi to prioritize the process of re-designing the local governance system to match the state's efforts to modernize Egypt and upgrade the living conditions for all Egyptians. That is a crucial step towards eliminating the cancerous corruption that has been decaying the municipal councils for years.

Also, read on Sada Elbalad


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