April 28, 2011

Random Tuesday thoughts that won't please many political activists

Original Post: April 26th, 2011

Social Justice
Talking about social justice in the context of a minimum wage exclusively without a vision for equal opportunity (education, healthcare, employment and social welfare) is short term. Is like
deciding to walk instead of taking your car when you don't even know where you're going.

Religious currents
A simple argument: January 25th was sparked by a population looking for "more" freedom not less. Any approach to a new order that will reduce our freedoms is in direct conflict with the principals of our revolution.  MB's and Salafis; getting the hint?

The classical definition of labor (factory workers) is obsolete because: 1) A whole new service industry has developed over the past 50 years which includes tourism, medical, information
technology, transportation, retail, logistics, etc. 2) Informal workers are a much bigger number than formal workers.
Quotas in the Parliament
A discussion about the quotas of farmers and labor in the parliament is discriminatory. It assumes that these are the only segments in society that "need" representation.  Women, handicaps, Bedouins, fishermen, SME's, etc. are also segments in the society that should be represented in the parliament. Moreover, labor in one industry has a completely different set of requirements than labor in another industry; does a quota system guarantee representation of all segments?
Civil society, unions and syndicates are the only way to guarantee inclusions of interest groups regardless of their size.

Protests and sit-ins are the last stage of negotiation, when everything else has failed or so I understood. Promoting those two forms as the means to start a negotiation is promoting unwarranted escalation. Whatever happened to organized unions, representation and discussions?

The Economy
In case you haven't noticed, 40% of Egyptians live below poverty lines. Unemployment increased by 2 Million people in the past 3 months. 50% of Egyptians earn their income on daily basis, some haven't worked in weeks. 3 Million Egyptians work in tourism or tourism related jobs, 20% of them have lost their jobs. Around 2 Million Egyptians work in contracting, 50% of those haven't worked in 3 months. We've consumed 20% of our reserves in 3 months. Retail is down by 40% across the board. 10-20% of Small and Medium businesses are shutting down. No, the economy isn't doing all that great, so please stop pretending.

The prosecution process
Here's what I think about the ongoing crack down on corruption . News of breaking government legally binding contracts on land with various investors is highly celebrated but is nothing but sad, sad, sad news.  Our economy is suffering and scaring off investors, whether local or international, isn't really helping. How far are we going to go with this? It's time we look at a truth and reconciliation committee to expose corruption but give amnesty to corruption that took place in the bygone times.

We make our own dictators
When I look at Mubarak's earlier speeches, I realize that he did not speak like a dictator in 1981. How did he become one? We were the ones who turned him into what he is. We put him on a pedestal and believed that he could do no wrong. Can we please not make a dictator out of our next presidents?

Peace treaty
A discussion about a stand-off with Israel when 30 Million Egyptians live below poverty line and 45 million below literacy line is 100% emotional and 0% logical. Moreover, until Sinai is developed and at least 7 Million Egyptians live there, there is no point in even talking about it.

Minimum Wage
With over 70% of the Egyptian economy being informal, talking about minimum wage without a discussion on the formalization of Small and Medium enterprise will only impact a tiny percentage of the true labor force in Egypt.

Egyptian Media
What a sorry ass tabloid media we have. Even the 2 or 3 semi-descent newspapers we had before the revolution have turned into paparazzi publications, more invested in catchy headlines of gossip and scandals than in promoting the well being of this country. The disgusting lack of creativity, the conspiracy theories and the tabloid content is contributing nothing to the future of Egypt and only fuels existing social tensions and anger. Thank you for a shitty job, we know we can't rely on you for a better country.

Centralized Economy
Seriously, all those people calling for the government to own the elements of production (factories, farms, etc.), please name one successful model anywhere in the world. Have you ever been in a state owned factory? Have you seen the salaries in the public sector? Have you seen the health and safety measures in those mills? Centralization of any economy is the shortest path to marginalization of the natural differences between segments of the society and the crippling of the effectiveness of any institution.  Unless of course you think Abdel Nasser was a good example, then we really have no common ground to start a discussion.

Foreign Labor
The call for banning foreign labor is simply idiotic. Whoever is calling for that, do you really think that companies would rather hire foreigners? Pay them more money and go through more government bureaucracy? Have you stopped for a second and thought about it? Why would anyone decide to hire foreigners? Could know-how have to do with it? Could productivity have to do with it? When I hear that a German company that wanted to invest in a factory to employ 5000 Egyptians was denied 20 permits for its senior staff, I wonder if the decision maker has the minimum IQ required to button a shirt. This is the "if you can't join them, beat the living shit out of them" concept.

The easy targets
Focusing on large formal corporations and businessmen for a crackdown on corruption is extremely naïve. When we attack formal entities that file their financials, pay taxes and abide by the laws of the country and ignore businesses that are extremely corrupt but fly below the radar, it only means that we are after the easy shots. It only means that we go after what is bright and shinning. Some of the most corrupt practices and monopolies in this country are not big known names such as Meat importers, traders of wheat, railroad contractors etc. I'm not for a crackdown on either at this stage but just wanted to say.

.. are in 4 months.. Nuff said

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