Egypt and Its Confused Constitution

So after months of deliberating, this is what Egypt thinks about the economy.  This is Article 13, on the “national economy”, taken from an unofficial translation of Egypt’s draft constitution:

The national economy aims to achieve sustainable and balanced development, protect  production and increase income, ensure social justice, solidarity and welfare, safeguard the rights of workers, ensure a fair distribution of wealth, raise the standard of living, eradicate poverty and unemployment, increase employment opportunities, achieve a partnership between capital and labor in bearing the cost of development, ensure equitable sharing of the revenues, link pay to production, lessen the disparities between incomes by introducing a maximum wage and guaranteeing a minimum wage, all to ensure a decent life for every citizen.

With only about four references to the economy, the constitution by which Egypt will live by is a sorely disappointing read.

Perhaps Egypt should be forgiven for the above, considering it is only a draft constitution? But we don’t forgive easily.

The lack of ambition conveyed in the draft, even after months of discussions, is expected. The vagueness alone is worrying.

Apart from appearing quite muddled and using the same blurry rhetoric that bores us all to death (i.e. “social justice”, “solidarity” and “balanced development”), the above comes across as socialist in its economic approach.  

“Ensure equitable sharing of the revenues”? That line has socialism written all over it. What exactly does that mean for Egypt’s business community and international investors? Egypt must break away from state-run economics, or at least mixed state and free-market economics, and this kind of wording is sure to scare investors away.

Though Rebel Economy supports a radical re-thinking of economics, poorly planned populism is disastrous.

What’s more, the drafters seem to have merely stuck on a few extras onto the same article of the previous constitution written under former president Sadat in 1971:

The national economy shall be organised in accordance with a comprehensive development plan which ensures raising the national income, fair distribution, raising the standard of living, solving the problem of unemployment, increasing work opportunities, connecting wages with production, fixing a minimum and maximum limit for wages in a manner that guarantees lessening the disparities between incomes.

Here’s the key problem:  This draft shines a spotlight on the contradiction and lack of clarity in government.   While Egyptian officials insist they believe in democracy and “free markets” on one hand, deeply enshrined in the wording of this constitution are beliefs that seem against that. And one thing that’s clear about the business community, they don’t like uncertainty.


  • mohammed Bahaa
    Posted November 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think there is anything unclear. They do believe in free-markets, but they are trying to appeal to the Egyptian public who, generally, believes in the strong role for the state in running or at least monitoring the economy.

    Let’s not forget that after decades of deprivation, Egyptians are now looking for an administration that will provide health care, subsidies, proper education and build roads and affordable houses. in addition to the obvious, progressive tax and minimum and wage ceiling. Not to mention things like affordable prices for jewelry and food. One of the most striking things when interviewing Egyptians below poverty lines is that they are always concerned with the price of gold (since many of them have 5+ children who all need to get married and buy engagement rings etc). More interesting is that they blame the government for the high prices of gold, which reflects that they expect movement from the government to control prices.

    The constitution draft is just looking to appease those sentiments while establishing institutions that would lead to what you can call the Gamal Mubarak market system lol.

  • Posted November 4, 2012 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s a stretch to call these aspirational goals “socialist”. These are perfectly reasonable goals for any state. I don’t think anyone would argue that “equitable sharing of the revenues” (or any of the above-mentioned goals) are anything but positive. It’s not socialism until the state gets involved in passing legislation or regulation to these ends.

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