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Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Be forewarned: The writer of this blog is an extremely cynical, snarky, pro-US, secular, libertarian, disgruntled sandmonkey. If this is your cup of tea, please enjoy your stay here. If not, please sod off

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

A small government is a beautifull thing!

It is not a secret that the majority of Egyptians don't really like their government because it is so damn big. In fact, Egyptians are usually anti- big government when they are given a choice in the matter, which is why every US egyptian immigrant i know votes republican. This disdain for government started after the 1952 socialist revolution, because prior to that , the Egyptian government was incredibly small. It had 10 Ministries ( Our word for Cabinets) and they covered only the areas that government should cover in my opinion, which are: Policing, Justice, Health, Defense, Treasury,Education, Foreign Affairs, Transportation, Trade, and Public Utilities (which included energy). That was it! The egyptian economy was in great condition, the UK owed us money, The Egyptian pound's exchange rate was $4 US Dollars to 1 Egyptian Pound. Egypt was a constitutional Monarchy , we had democratic elections that determined the parliament and government based on Party coalitions. That was then! Now, with the socialists in power since 1952, we have no democracy to speak off, Our Debts exceed our GDP by 33%, The president picks the government , the economy stinks and the Egyptian Pound Exchange Rate is 6 Egyptian Pounds to $1 US Dollar. Ohh yeah, and we have a much bigger government now. We have 34 Ministries. Thirty-Freakin-Four! The USA, which is comprised of 50 states, has only 16 Ministries (Cabinets) and that's including the newly developed Homeland Security Department. And the americans don't like it. They complain that the government is too damn big and they want it to get smaller! But we, in Egypt, we know better then the Americans. We have 34 Cabinets and we are cool with it. Do the Americans have a Secretary of Culture? Don't think so. They could use one, those stupid french-hating ignoramuses! Souvage! Anyway, when i first heard that our government has 34 cabinet positions i was more then shocked. I thought we had 23, tops! So i went today and did some research and i found out that the number is true. We really do have 34 Minisiters, and i am not counting the 2 Ministers in charge of the Parliament Upper & Lower House affairs. But yeah, for those non-believers, here is the complete List:

  1. Ministry of Defense
  2. Ministry for Environmental Affairs
  3. Ministry of Treasury
  4. Ministry of Information
  5. Ministry of Military Production
  6. Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation
  7. Ministry of Investment
  8. Ministry of Education
  9. Ministry of Higher Education
  10. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  11. Ministry of Manpower and Emigration
  12. Ministry of Public Works and Water Resources
  13. Ministry of Tourism
  14. Ministry of Transportation
  15. Ministry of Media
  16. Ministry of Culture
  17. Ministry of Justice
  18. Ministry of Operational Development
  19. Ministry of Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities
  20. Ministry of Health
  21. Ministry of Scientific Research
  22. Ministry of National Development
  23. Ministry of Interior (Policing)
  24. Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry
  25. Ministry of Social Insurance and Affairs
  26. Ministry of Energy and Electricity
  27. Ministry of Civil Aviation
  28. Ministry of Subsidies and Internal Trade
  29. Ministry of Youth
  30. Ministry of International Co-operation
  31. Ministry of Planning
  32. Ministry of Telecommunication and Information Technology
  33. Ministry of Petroleum
  34. Ministry of State-owned Assets (Awkaf)

Now, i may not know much, but it seems to me that there are some ministries in that list that we can do without. The Ministry of Youth for example, which is in charge of athlete teams development and running the nationalized sporting clubs. Yeah, that's a necessary function of government! The Ministry of Civil Aviation also comes to mind, since last i checked aviation is still a mode of transportation. We could also eliminate the Ministry of Higher Education, cause we already have a ministry of education and all egyptian universities either enjoy autonomy or are privately owned and run. Or how about the Ministry Tourism? I don't know anyone who knows what those people do. The pharonic and historic artifacts and monuments fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of culture, while the Tourism Police( we actually have a tourism police people) operates under the Jurisdiction of the Ministry of Interior. They don't even bring the Tourists over here, that's the travel companies job. What do they do exactly? No one knows the answer to that question! Although there are two theories that do explain why our government is this big.

Theory # 1 deals with the fact that we have certain policies in Egypt that cause Investors -foreign or domestic- to shy away from investing here and subsequently creating jobs. Policies like our Labor Law, which prohibits the employer from firing anyone that they employed, because- i shit you not- "workers are entitled to their jobs and job security"! Or like our Education policy, which gives egyptian citizens the right to a free education throughout Highschool and College. This may seem like a good idea on paper, but in reality it's application has some serious consequences on the economy, because every year colleges produce about half a million graduates, with the economy only creating between 20- 30 thousand new jobs. With the private sector not hiring because of the labor laws, and the educated elitist students shy away from iffy blue-collar jobs, the only place people can seek employment is the government. Fearing riots, the government every year hires thousands of people they don't really need, for jobs that involve doing nothing and paying them salaries that they can't possibly afford to live on. And this has been happening for over 50 years now. You wanna know how bad it got? Well, for example, the Accounting department in the egyptian state owned Railroad company has approx. 40 thousend employees. 40 thousand. What the hell are they doing with 40 thousand accounting employees? No one knows, but the conventional wisdom seems to be that it's better then having 50 employees in that department and 39, 950 egyptians added to the ranks of the unemployed. So why do we have 34 Ministries? Cause the people need jobs!

The other theory deals with the notion that the government likes being in charge of everything, because it allows it to steal from everybody. For example, we are the only country in the world with a Ministry of Subsidies and Internal Trade, the only one. That ministry's job is to control the inner-trading of goods and making sure that commodities prices remain affordable to the general population no matter what the market condition may be. They have the power to stop goods from coming into the country, from being sold in supermarkets, and from being traded between traders. For example, you can not import wheat and sell it in any way you please, cause they classify it as an essential good and the people have a "right" to get essential goods in "a price they can afford". They have to direct the percentages you can sell for your own private profit and the rest has to be sold to the government at a lower price then you bought the wheat for in order for the government to sell bread to the egyptian public at an "affordable" price. Of course, such policies don't get exacted on everybody, and you can always get someone in that Ministry to ignore the rules just this once for a Price. Hell, you pay the minister enough money and you may get yourself a permanent exemption from all the laws governing egyptian "Inner-trade". Once you figure that out , you can also understand why they have the Ministriers of Petroleum, foreign trade and telecommunication. And you thought american politicians were corrupt!

The only hope Egypt has in getting rid of corruption and improving its economy once again is to reduce the size of the government and let the market lead the economy. Egypt is an incredibly rich country that could've been a First-world country years ago if we only had some decent adminstration that cared more about the poeple and less about how much money they can loot from them. A lot of people-including me- talk about Reforms in egypt, but such reforms will never accomplish anything with government bureaucracies controlling and affecting every aspect of the egyptian economy and society. Get a smaller government in Egypt NOW ; the big government people had their chance the past 50 years and they failed us all miserably.

It's time for them to go!


At 1/18/2005 09:10:00 AM, Blogger Papa Ray said...

Hey SM,

Your list is impressive, but I'm afraid that it doesn't even hold a candle to the US government.

Here is an Incomplete list (see other parts of website for more).

This is my post

Papa Ray
West Texas

At 1/18/2005 11:35:00 AM, Blogger Mike SC USA said...

But Ray, the comparasion is exactly a fair one either. The US has 4 times the population and an ecomony 50 times as large as Egypt. Our defense budget alone is TWICE the GDP of Saudi Arabia! Which I find amusing 'cause everything's always about oil...

At 1/18/2005 08:07:00 PM, Blogger Tina said...

There is nothing more expensive than a "free lunch". Socialism doesn't work, it destroys the people who were meant to benefit from it.

At 1/20/2005 06:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What, no Religious Police? Maybe there's hope yet.

Sam, thank you for the insights into the Egyptian government. What a learning experience it has been to read your blog!


At 1/20/2005 07:22:00 PM, Blogger CharlesWT said...

United States cabinet level departments with the ones we could very well do without struck out. The Agriculture Department probably has more employees than the US has farmers. We probably wouldn't even need Homeland Security if the other departments were doing their jobs well.

1. State
2. Treasury
3. Defense
4. Attorney General
5. <s>Interior</s>
6. <s>Agriculture</s>
7. <s>Commerce</s>
8. <s>Labor</s>
9. <s>Health and Human Services</s>
10. <s>Housing and Urban Development</s>
11. <s>Transportation</s>
12. <s>Energy</s>
13. <s>Education</s>
14. <s>Veterans Affairs</s>
15. <s>Homeland Security</s>

At 1/21/2005 12:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sandy, Egypt had the bad fortune to have its revolution (1952) around the time when EVERYBODY thought that big government was the answer to everything. The reason why the Communists were so high, wide, and handsome then was because they were for the BIGGEST government of all. Dwight D. Eisenhower didn't like big government, but when he was president, he knew it would be political suicide to do anything about it.

Interestingly enough, the USA started with only 2-3 cabinet posts: State, War, and Treasury. When Hamilton and Jefferson were at each other's throats, Pres. Washington invited them both to go fishing with him on the Potomac, and when out in the middle of the river, Washington stretched out on the oars, dangled his line over the side, and told his cabinet officers that he wasn't going to take the boat in until they agreed to cease feuding.

Also, Washington said he would serve no more than two terms, and when the second term was up, he told everyone that he was going back to Mount Vernon, his Virginia farm. Maybe these are reasons why he will probably always be highly regarded by Americans, even after thick encrustations of legend are stripped away.

BTW, I'm one of those Americans who thinks we could probably pare down our government quite a bit. Big government gives people the idea that the way to get ahead in life is to get political power--and before you know it, you have corruption spreading like the bubonic plague in the middle ages.

At 12/30/2005 09:54:00 AM, Anonymous OHenry said...

There was a time when communities would seek counsel from the elders. More experience usually translated into lessons learned. Having picked up a pearl of wisdom here and there over the years, I am now able to share a thought or two. The main lesson is to never stop learning. Seeking other points of view and new ideas like visiting your blog are steps in the right direction. Finding what is ultimately important leads one to appreciate actuality, efficiency and mindfulness. Helping others to see some of the forest through the trees is its own reward. discernment


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