Saturday, February 19, 2005

Ayman Nur

'Tangerine dream', by Mark Leonard, FT Magazine, February 11 2005 18:51    subscribers only --
The man I went to see in Cairo is now in prison. I had seen Ayman Nur, the leader of Al-Ghad (The Party of Tomorrow), in the pride of his growing fame and success: at the peak of the growth of a movement which he created...
Nur has been called the Egyptian Tony Blair. .... Like Blair, he instinctively tunes into the thoughts and desires of aspirational Egyptians.
This article certainly provides a fascinating insight into how Egyptian 'democracy' works.
The fact that so much of Egypt's revenue comes from outside insulates the government both from the demands of its citizens, who are not asked to pay much tax, and from the need to reform. Egypt receives more than $1bn from the US and almost as much from the EU. Kassem, in the course of a drive around Cairo, explains to me what the rentier state means in practice. "See that television building there? It has 11,000 votes. They are collected in boxes of 900 votes. If 800 out of 900 are not for the government then everyone can forget their bonuses."

The network of control extends beyond state employees and their families: nothing will move in Egypt without the approval of the governing party. Even though the private sector now makes up 70 per cent of the economy, the balance of power has not shifted. The formal bureaucratic procedures are so cumbersome that most economic activity depends on political patronage, or it is simply driven underground. A good example is the housing sector. The Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto, working with the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies, has estimated that, if an Egyptian follows legal procedures to build and register a dwelling after acquiring state-owned desert land, he would have to perform 77 bureaucratic procedures in 31 offices. The process would take from six to 14 years. The result is that the vast majority of people resort to bribery or break the law. An estimated 62 per cent of Cairo's population lives in housing that does not formally exist.
---   Link here. Harry's Place has some further developments here.


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