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Governance, Accountability and Stakeholders in Egypt

Posted on the 28 September 2011 by Warigia @WarigiaBowman
This semester I am teaching a class at the American University in Cairo called "Governance, Accountability, and Stakeholder Negotiation. It is a masters level class in public policy. It is a lot of fun, and we have been doing a lot of reading on how to improve governance in the Middle East and Africa. For example, we have read the Ibrahim Index as well as the World Bank MENA governance News and Notes.
This week, we were very lucky to have a special guest. Dr. Samer Soliman came and spoke to our class. He is the author of an important book just published by Stanford University Press. The book is titled The Autumn of Dictatorship: Fiscal Crisis and Political Change Under Mubarak.  In this book, Dr. Soliman evaluates the Egyptian budget to get lessons about allocation patterns, and the character of the authoritarian Egyptian state.
Here are some of his comments (paraphrased) on governance and accountability.
The main issue of the Army is the budget. The second issue is that the Army has an economic empire. The military empire is off budget. If you examine the details of the Egyptian budget, you will not see it, but the evidence is all around us. One concern for the transition is that the Egyptian military is trying to prevent the new president from having power over the budget. 
It will likely take a while to move the military to its proper place in society. In Spain, the transition to democracy took 15 years. Currently in Egypt, we are operating under an interim constitution. At the moment, there is no article in the constitution that has a popular monitoring of the budget.
We need an army, and we need a state. There has actually been a long term weakening of the Army since Sadat. The Nasser regime was really a military regime. This is less true today. In Iraq under Saddam, there was no distance at all between the regime and the state. This is also true of Syria today. In Egypt, there is some distance. The military is not divided along sectarian lines, like the Syrian military. It is important to get the military budget into the state budget. Right now, there is a lack of civilian control of the budget. 
Taxation plays an important role in accountability. Taxation in Egypt is currently corrupt and inefficient. Democracy facilitates the task of taxation because it enhances popular legitimacy. We also need progressive taxation. 
With regard to stakeholders under the Mubarak Regime, there were no real political parties. There were just pressure groups. The opposition parties had no chance to rule. New political parties are emerging. In the future, we will have real political parties in Egypt. Syndicates will be much more important. There was no real syndicate life under the old regime. The syndicates can play an important role as an instrument of bargaining and problem solving. Many social groups in Egypt do not have real power. The Egyptian diaspora is important. Civil society will be more important in the new period. The SCAF is pushing the diaspora aside because they are dangerous. They are a huge asset in terms of their money, their knowledge, and their connections. 
It is not correct that the SCAF will be appointing all 100 members of the task force to write the constitution. Rather, they will set the criteria of how people for the task force are selected. The parliamentary elections will be in November. Then, there will hopefully be presidential elections, although it is vague. The constitution should be drafted within 6 months after the presidential elections. There is no guarantee that the constitutional drafting will be finished in the transition period. 
Egyptian Social Democratic Party
The party I belong to is the SDP. It is objectively, the best party in Egypt, and you should join it. {laughter}. We respect the market economy, but we also believe in a welfare state, and we support social justice. Our party is based on the assumption that economic development needs to create opportunities for the poor, but still be based on the market. We want to give people the instruments and means to defend their rights. It is creative conciliation between the market, and social democracy. 

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