Thursday, July 26, 2012

Post-revolutionary Egypt: What’s next? Part 2

Never too late: industrialization, services and technology

Egypt, since the major period of industrialization under the Nasser administration, fell back on the international arena to a mere import oriented economy relying for its most on foreign production to fulfill its market’s needs. Nowadays, after a toppled regime and a genuine declared war against corruption and centralization, the Egyptian economy is ready to engage once more in the competitive sector of major industries spanning from the petrochemical sector to the production and assembly of automobiles and military weapons. The educational system in Egypt is one which is acknowledged for its quality and excellence, a success mostly witnessed through top class intellectuals and engineers whom Egypt exports throughout the world.

One would doubt the necessity and indeed the potential attributes of an imminent industrialization in Egypt, especially in a world which industrial wheel has been rotating since the 19th century, but the current situation in the Middle East and especially the Gulf attests of a different reality.

Acetex, Corporation has entered a newly formed joint venture to build a US 1 Billion $ plant in Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia[1], and this comes after Qatar built the biggest gas-to-liquid plant at the grand pleasure of the Qatari Emir. The region is witnessing a fervent ascension to major industrialization, and it is a favorable time for Egypt to enroll in such efforts.

Whether through implementing gas and petroleum refinery plants in joint ventures with the gulf countries as did Tunisia along Qatar in a 2 Billion 2$ Investment[2] (Especially that the oil and gas fields in Egypt are poorly exploited through an old and inefficient exploitation and delivery infrastructure), or be it through the privatization of the state owned plants in order to reform and improve the soviet dated firms and production lines to the requirements of the 21st century.

Another aspect of the Egyptian economy is its large agricultural activities which account for 13.5% of the GDP. Looking back at the wealthy fields across the Nile strikes the viewer immediately: the scene never exceeds the view of poor installations, few human resources and archaic tools of production. Nations with far smaller land mass whose workforce in the agricultural sector is dwarfed by that of Egypt still manages to have a colossal input in the world market. What is needed is indeed a reform and improvement of the mean of productions in Egypt, a qualification of the workforce and the introduction of technology, genetic selection and mass production in the agricultural fields. This will boost not only the productivity, but will as well expand the usable land mass in the vast desertic fields as what is been done in Saudi Arabia and co.

Egypt is rich in resources, and the abundant oil, gas, iron, manganese, limestone or phosphates are here to further confirm it. The human resources to exploit these natural riches are as well in excess, so what is needed is a true political willingness to advance the economic competitively of Egypt instead of using induces poverty and illiteracy as political tools to enslave the people as has been done during the Mubarak Era.
Furthermore, the prospects of monetary rehabilitation are appealing, and the necessity for Egypt to uphold thus far a diplomatic and strategic foreign policy supportive of the US is more than encouraged in order to secure the American Billions of dollars’ worth of aid. This, coupled with an up to market prices trade with Israel over the oil exports would enrich the state monetary reserves of another dozen of billions $. Finally, the alignment of Egypt with the West and the gulf countries in their effort to ignite a war against Iran will inevitably poor on the Egyptian reserves juicy banknotes issued by the petro-dollar rich and grateful gulf nations  for the Egyptian efforts to sustain “peace and stability” to the region.

An enhanced industrialization, a fierce war on corruption and a rehabilitation of the monetary system and relief of the aggregating debts is to engage Egypt in the path of economic competitiveness and major industrial production, a deeply needed pathway where the economic survival of the nation ultimately rests.

To be Continued...
Next: Political Reforms

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Post-revolutionary Egypt: What’s next? Part 1

Almost a month has passed since the crowning of Mursi as President of Egypt after a runoff election which put the whole country of not the world on a standstill. With a nation deeply divided over the nature of the presidential candidates and their respective agenda, the victory of the Muslim brotherhood is far from being celebrated as an achievement, and rather mentioned as an inevitable destiny the presidential elections put forward before the sealed box container could unveil their secret ballots.

Now that the results are known and the president has been sworn to office, the future of Egypt remains as uncertain as during the midst of the revolution. With remains of the old regime being, as custom goes, fiercely pointed as conspirators behind any vice the country suffers and every tragedy the public opinion hears of, and a zealous base of supporters of Ahmed Shafiq who see stability as key component of the country’s daily life, a stability threatened by a potential confrontation between the Muslim brotherhood and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces.

Regardless of the fuss raised about the secret agendas and the hidden hands, one thing remains certain: Egypt is in downwards financial, social and political slide, and that is far from being an unseen and dubious course of events. The President, in a challenge not only to prove himself a worthy figure, but in a confrontation as well that will shape the future of the Political Islamism across the MENA region, can only thrive for a solid consolidation of his victory through the accomplishment of highly valued successes internationally, and most importantly on the domestic arena.

I will develop a set of arguments and ideas about the future decisions that ought to be taken in the fields of economics, politics, military and religion in order to insure a peaceful transition towards democracy for a nation that spilled enough blood to buy its dignity and prosperity back from decades of tyranny.


Being the 27th greatest economy with a GDP flirting with the 530 Billion $ is something to be proud of, yet endangering the nation’s wealth and input has become the key concern for the Egyptian citizen, blaming the financial collateral damages of the revolution for the downwards spiral the nation has been experiencing on the casual streets as well as on the stock market.
The spilled billions of $, along with the damaged industries and slowed production has merged to establish an unsustainable financial situation that puts at risk the political credibility of the new leadership and questions the very necessity of the revolution in the first place.
Looking back at the nature of the country, its past focal industries and the professional sector its universities produces, one can lay a working scheme for how the nation ought to operate its economy in order to boost its GDP and consolidate its revolution with a flourishing democracy propelled by promising financial records.

1.       The Nile:

Aiming at economic development cannot acquire its credibility unless the fuel to power plants, to fire machines and to melt iron can be secured. Providing electricity for the hungry fuel-consuming industries must be a priority for chief economic and financial advisors for the new leadership, and doing so won’t need the implementation of the American or Chinese natural resources exploitation schemes. (Neither American military driven quest for oil nor Chinese diplomatic venture in African dictatorship controlled markets). What nurtured the civilization of the great pharaohs and what witnessed the royal naval processions of ancient monarchs is well endowed to provide the Egyptian economy with the necessary blood to water its veins. The mere figure of 12%[1] is the amount of electricity produced by the Dams scattered across the Nile in the Egyptian soil, and given the political turmoil on its southern borders, Egypt could easily increase the figure to new records.

The 1959 Nile Waters treaty entitles Egypt to 82% of the water volume, thus restricting the access of Cairo to the full capacity of the river’s potential electrical output. The plans of the former Egyptian regime to increase its number of Dams along the river have been met with furious discontent from the southern neighbors spanning from Sudan to Ethiopia. The political conditions of Sudan and Ethiopia now are a domestic burden prone to be exploited by an awaking power in the North.

Sudan, now divided into two countries since the independence of the south, is not in a position to sustain its internal politics and economics due the loss of the major oil reserves and to the cracking of its domestic affairs between political unrest and social revolts. Egypt, through the offering of economic and diplomatic assistance to Khartoum in its struggle with Southern Sudan could manage easily to turn the currency of such business into Sudan’s acquiescence to the ventures of Cairo in the Nile resources. Khartoum is now draining in its stockpiled petro-dollars which are everything but eternal, and the current socio-economic conditions warns of an imminent drought of the nation’s monetary reserves. With nothing to sustain the efforts of war and diplomatic confrontation with Juba, Sudan will see the extended hand of Egypt as a divine intervention which ought to be celebrated and greeted by any necessary compromises and sacrifices.

A full access to the Nile, even with Khartoum consent and Juba’s acquiescence due to its abundant oil reserves and thus lack of interest in Hydro-electric power wouldn’t be possible without Ethiopia’s approval. This challenge could be overcome by coupling a strategy of intensifying trade relations and Egyptian expertise exports to Addis Ababa to help develop the inexistent infrastructure and implement industries meant to strengthen the fastest growing non-oil-dependent African economy between 2007 and 2008[2] (with what it brings of industrialization ties to Cairo and thus relative dependence on it), and through a stronger US-Egyptian cooperation to counter Chinese intrusion in Ethiopian market since it would pose a serious threat to the water resources which Chinese economic tentacles in Africa avidly consumes.

Such strategy, if put in place could expand Egyptian access to the Nile water over its prescribed shares, granting greater hydro-electric capacity and wider civilian and industrial access to the river’s waters, thus empowering furthermore the Egyptian economy and sustaining its supplies of fuel through a consolidated electrical generation through the Nile waters.

To be continued...
Next: More subtopics to be covered in Economy: Industrialization, Tourism, Services and Gulf investments

Sunday, July 1, 2012

What reforms needed for an AL Qaeda in decline Part 4

Qualified Human Resources for enhanced performances

What makes up an organization is neither the brand nor the product, it is foremost the quality of its working force despite its size and proportions. Many would argue that the Al Qaeda network should concentrate its resources on upgrading its recruitment process, yet I argue, along line Bruce Hoffman, that quantity is a negligible factor in the working mechanisms of militant groups. Focusing instead on qualifying the members of the network and recruiting selectively skilled individuals will enhance beyond proportions the reach and impact of Al Qaeda.

"Terrorism is not a numbers game," says Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown University's Center for Peace and Security Studies. "That is the point of terrorism: A small number of dedicated, well-trained, and highly motivated individuals can have a disproportionate impact on any society's sense of security and profoundly affect government policies."[1]

It is indeed clear to the public opinion, as it is for policy makers, that skilled militants who can hack into GPS navigation systems, perform high profile assassinations, assemble explosive devices and sabotage nuclear stations are far more dangerous than individuals with lite weaponry in the middle of the Afghan chain mountains.

It is indeed precarious for the network survival to uphold the philosophy it instated at its beginnings, a philosophy which imposes on the group a volatile chain of commands with no specification of long term targets. As al-Hammadi, Khalid points out in his series of articles in Al Quds Al Arabi: Al-Qaeda's management philosophy has been described as "centralization of decision and decentralization of execution.

The decentralization of execution puts forwards numerous risks and imposes a specific modus operandi. As restraints are loose on the command execution of the group’s operational units, the necessity to achieve successful attacks in the shortest delays overturns the need to secure an elaborate and impactful strategy with low costs and high gains.

The comparison drawn between the attacks of Madrid, the 9/11 and other major accomplishments of Al Qaeda, and the seeming less assaults and suicide bombings executed in Afghanistan and Iraq points the importance of carrying on elaborate missions with skilled executives instead of rushed strikes.
Investing in human resources should become the driving motives of Al Qaeda, and securing recruits with college and university degrees in Engineering, Computer sciences and military specializations will allow the network to move from decentralized anarchic execution to focal and high precision missions of the scale of the 9/11.

An example of such investments Al Qaeda should start engaging on is of the caliber of high tech research on communication and networks breaching. The latest news in BBC of the researchers who used spoofing to hack into a flying drone shows the possibility to use knowledgeable university students to deviate flying targets using GPS navigation systems and use them as projectiles or intelligence sources[2].

These are the 21st century new challenges of Al Qaeda, and in a world of rapid change an exponential advance, catching up with the drastic improvements in the different vital sectors in the military field or civilian sectors is a necessity for survival. The working mechanisms of the past have succeeded in securing a temporary expansion of the network, but since the post-soviet era, Al Qaeda has only receded from the field of action and from the minds and hearts of its supporters. A visionary leadership, under the command of a young generation of executives with appropriate knowledge and qualifications to meet the ever improving counter-terrorism techniques and policies worldwide is more pressing than ever.

Mohamed Amine Belarbi