Learning that officials, who are designated to solve Egypt socioeconomic challenges, are the core beneficiaries of keeping them superseded, should have prompted us a long time ago to realise why we have been living with those challenges for decades. This is the myth of Egyptian bureaucracy—a number of old-fashioned executives who have been ruling Egypt with their outdated mindset and corrupt mechanisms are, at the same time, responsible for modernising our country.
Minimising road accidents, preventing the bulldozing of historical buildings, as well as not exceeding the housing development laws are some of many obvious challenges that do not require huge resources to tackle, but need bold leadership. Being ruled by millions of over-employed government bureaucrats who are known for their obsolete mechanisms and prolonging procedures, has consistently resulted in the government moving from one failure to another without any prior notice.
Knowing that Egypt’s socioeconomic challenges are in those bureaucrats’ hands has resulted in converting our challenges to a chronic catastrophe. In their attempts to solve our challenges with their outdated mindset, the bureaucrats tend to come up with more procedures and milestones that advance bureaucracy instead of eradicating it. Each single challenge has been expanding tremendously until either the government acknowledges that it does not have a solution for it, or operates a “technical surgery” that often comes at the expense of the poor citizens.
Over and above, Egyptian bureaucrats who are the true challenge and burden of the society do not only exist among government entities, but also among the private sector. Many of the senior executives, who spend three to four decades applying their bureaucratic mindset at various government entities, are eventually moving to the private sector when they get close to retirement. They claim that they move with their in-depth knowledge, but in reality, they bring the government’s malfunctioning mindset to the private firms that they move to.
Egyptian bureaucracy has obviously concluded in having more corruption. Each hurdle that the bureaucrats establish is attached to a “verbal guideline solution,” initiated by them, to immediately diffuse upon paying a bribe. Meanwhile, bureaucrats who are not engaged in corruption due to non-exposure to the public try to enhance their income by having a second job that often overlaps with the government’s working hours, at the expense of the Egyptian economy.
In time, and due to the complications of the milestones, a new community layer appeared that might be defined as “facilitators”—very well-connected personalities that do not work in the government, but know “who is who” among the government directors and manage to overcome those hurdles quite fast. The bureaucrats’ argument that nations could not live without guidelines and procedures is an “icing” that covers the hurdles that they created and continuously defends their personal benefits.
Some argue that bureaucracy exists in all nations. It is a true argument, but not in the spread and magnitude of the Egyptian bureaucracy. The challenge that we are having in Egypt is the bureaucratic mindset and collapsed body that insists that it is capable of running and even winning a marathon. Keeping this crawling bureaucrat, who claims to be an athlete, at home, accompanied with giving him a decent income, is better off for Egypt than trusting him to compete and lose every time.
Having the regulator as a beneficiary of these challenges means we will be living with these problems and others for years to come. For the last decades, everyone has been talking about the bureaucracy and corruption that are taking place in Egypt, making up the major obstacles for domestic and foreign investments, but no single government has taken any measures to get rid of either. It seems that everyone is comfortable with what has been practised for decades.