Thoughts from readers on the shape of the year to come — and one very sweet comment from a younger reader.
Nearly half of all respondents to our 4Q2016 Enterprise Reader Poll took the time to leave us very thoughtful comments. You also made us blush with your kind words and constructive criticism.
Four themes ran through your comments: You pay your taxes — and you wish others did the same. You believe there will be no progress without investment in education, particularly K-12 and vocational training. More than anything else, you want policy stability from the government in the years ahead. And a very large number of you worry that while the government and business are on the right track, you’re not sure “el sha3b” are willing to put in the work necessary to help the economy turn the corner.
We can’t run everyone’s comments, but we’ve chosen a handful that “spoke for the majority” below. They have, in cases, been condensed for space and clarity. All comments were offered anonymously by readers — we don’t track reader comments by subscriber name or email:
“There’s some serious head-hunting going on in the PE industry from global funds looking at Egypt. Probably a good sign.”
“Managing a business in Egypt successfully is no easy feat. In fact, a disproportionate amount of time, money, energy and emotion is appropriated to benign tasks and problem solving. However, as I constantly hear (and on occasion, contribute to) the drone of complaints relating to the business environment (and the relative value of the USD in particular), I feel it is worth remembering that many of the factors we complain about also serve as barriers to entry. As business owners, we are able to operate safe in the knowledge that others are less able, or less willing, to navigate through the chaos. The absence of healthy competition in many sectors may restrict the creation of multiple economic and social benefits, but it is worth remembering that as individuals we have profited from the protection that the lack of crowding-out provides.”
“The country is not doing enough to encourage the industrial sector. Things that might help: Allocate land on a 10-year right-of-use basis (instead of ownership), renewable in perpetuity if the company is productive and meets certain specs.”
“Speed the justice system up — we need more commercial courts.”
“Economies run on confidence: I hope Egyptians can have that required state of mind and perseverance to achieve the required results, otherwise we are relegated to the dustbin of history for a good 70 years. It’s now or never.”
“Tough year ahead of us, time to tighten your belts and hope for the best. This country will get worse before it gets better — but it will get better.”
“Although we don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel now, it is more likely coming in 2018, not 2017. But we still invest: I am opening my new restaurant next month.”
“What happens in the economy going forward hinges upon the government not only sticking to its ‘announced’ austerity measures,but the speed and consistency with which they enact changes, rule of law and frankly their clarity on the way forward — otherwise we’re back to square -1.”
“We had a great year in 2016 and we hit our targets, even after the currency devaluation. I am in the pharma industry and despite the fact that until now we have not been able to increase the prices (important, because we are In the red now), there has been a run on medication after the devaluation causing our sales to accelerate.”
“Make it easier for people to start businesses.”
“It’s all about security. The system is so fragile. Anything can set the recovery path back by six months in the blink of an eye (e.g. the Cathedral bombing).”
“We need to cleanse the Wahhabism that has taken control of Egyptians’ minds.”
“Two major macro risks in the next 3 to 6 months: 1. The CBE increases moral suasion to commercial banks to bring EGP to a stronger rate of +/- EGP 16 : USD1 or more. If this happens, a de facto peg has been re-established and the gains from exchange rate liberalisation are lost. 2. Having implemented major reforms recently, which is a significant positive change compared to previous administrations, there is a risk that the government may ease off on reform execution. The reforms require constant weekly / monthly monitoring and evaluation if they are to deliver the intended benefits … and even then, the actual results are likely to be lower than the expected results.”
“I’m a banker (well, it seemed like a good idea when I first took the job) and jokes aside, I truly do believe that the potential to achieve, even now, exists in Egypt; and while I do assign some of the blame for our recent economic challenges to the Egyptian public, I am a proponent of "big government" and believe that the Government can and must do more … sans corruption, inefficiency, cronyism, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum. So as a banker what’s my modest outlook? Positive, I believe. Difficult and fraught with problems and the excuses (and fantasies) of government officials … but hopeful. Just noticed that I didn’t support anything I said with hard data, but it’s Thursday morning and I’m already thinking of Thursday afternoon.”
Fan mail that made our hearts melt: “I just love reading Enterprise every morning especially because I’m just 16 years old, but you give lots of insights about the economy and it makes me learn something new every day on the way to school.” If you wrote this email and you want a summer internship, email email@example.com.
** If you’re the person who wrote to us about aluminum, would you please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re willing to have a chat on background?