السبت، 24 مارس، 2007

Egypt: the Aftermath of a Demographic Explosion




Demographic explosions differ from bomb explosions in two ways; first, their shrapnels' are in the form of millions of human beings walking "flying" around, and second, they don't happen in an instant, but rather over an extended period of time! However, they are in no way less lethal, in fact, they are much more lethal than bomb explosions, and we are living one of them in Egypt nowadays…

The signs of this explosion are everywhere (see photo above taken from Yacoubian Building movie); drive in Cairo streets and you will notice it, go to the crowded public schools (100pupil/class in some cases), ride the crowded public buses, take a turn in a public hospital, the list can go on and on…

In 1952, Egypt's population was about 20 million. The amount of water flowing into the Nile –which is about the only irrigation source we have, was about 56 Billion m3 on average (it wasn't constant because there was no dam). Today, in 2007, Egypt's population has crossed the 77 million mark and the amount of water flowing into the Nile is still 56 m3. Why isn't there famine? Escapes me..!

For too long, Egypt's population has been living on subsidies! Food & Fuel are heavily subsidized. Instead of spending money on research and universities, the government is forced to direct most of its revenues to make food affordable to the 1.5 million new babies every year. The bottle of formula milk is being sold at about US$ 0.7 while the actual price is about US$ 4.0. The price of fuel at the gas station is one of the cheapest in the world! It ranges from US$ 0.14 – 0.25/liter depending on the level of octane. I can go on, and on citing examples of heavily subsidized economy.

When the government tried to lift subsidies in 1977, there was a general uprising that was soon taken over by looters and thugs who burnt buses and shops across Egypt.

Of course, as time passes by, the level and quality of all these subsidized items is reaching new low every year. The total collapse of public health and education systems under the heavy weight of the population is a matter of time!

The government has tried for so long to convince people of the necessity of family planning. Large portions of the Egyptian populace rejected the idea on religious basis; Egyptian people are very religious, so the Moslems hung on to the Hadeeth (Prophit's Narrative) "Reproduce, I will be proud of you on the day of judgment" while Christians hung on to "Be fruitful and multiply". Some even think it’s a plot against Islam to ask people to plan families; however, these are the same who later complain that they don't have enough money to feed their 4 or 6 Children.

The recently publicized phenomenon of Street Children –estimated by some at 2 millions in Egypt, didn’t happen in one day; it took decades for the system to overflow. These children were brought to this life with the parents thinking that God will look after them; they will have their own Rizq (Bestowed from God)!

Some people are arguing day and night that the problem is mismanagement, and comparing Egypt to Japan, saying that Japan doesn't have any natural resources! That's a big misinformation! Japan has about 4000 m3 of water per capita (all flowing inside the country) compared to. 890 m3 in Egypt (99% flowing from outside the country). 29% of it's surface is agriculture (some of the most fertile lands the world), compared to less than 4% in Egypt, Japan has 65% of the country covered with forests (these are natural resources treasures), Egypt has 0% forests, Japan has 15% of the world fish production, I don't know the comparable figure for Egypt but I'm sure its insignificant.

In addition, one of the most important motives for perfection and production in Japan is the culture, they have a culture that glorifies work and invention as opposed to our culture that glorifies worship in a way that makes people leave their work and pray en masse during working hours in a national bank leaving frustrated customers waiting for half an hour as shown below, and discussed on another post in this blog!


If you compare Egypt to any African country, you will find that Egypt is much poorer in natural resources than most of these countries. Try DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Central Africa, etc…

Another myth that is often mentioned as a reason for Egypt's underdevelopment is theft and corruption. While Egypt does have corruption, it is by no means among the highest in the world (look at oil rich Nigeria), in addition, we have an excellent system of audit that captures significant corruption cases (General Organization for Auditing/Accounting), and insignificant corruption such as passing cigarettes or LE10 to a public clerk to finish a transaction is definitely not the most significant impediment to development. The other funny thing is that large sections of the population believe that Mubarak and his family are diverting billions of public money to Swiss banks in their names, and that’s why Egypt is not doing well! These are just unfounded rumors that were never substantiated. I haven't seen Mubarak or his sons on the cover of Forbes Magazine!

Our major impediment to progress is the expanding population. Having more than two kids per family is a crime against the country because that family will ask the rest of us to pay for the subsidies of their food, education, energy, health, etc…

Egypt cannot sustain 1.5 million new souls every year, it is going to collapse, that means the current per capita income of US$ 1440 will start regressing, the debt will start rising again, the percentage of imported food will increase again, Tourism and Suez Canal revenues will not suffice to fill the gap in the balance of trade.

People of Egypt, my fellow citizens, you have been forewarned!

هناك 6 تعليقات:

Egypeter يقول...

Very interesting and you make a strong argument Mr. Masr. Makes sense to me.

Egypt's population is terribly out of control. Egypt might need to start employing China's methods in controlling their population. Heck, why not subsidize NOT having children?

But you're right, something has to be done before Egypt collapses even further. And hopefully soon.

Gesteckt_Schmetterling يقول...

I remember some story's premonition that egyptians will turn into cannibals by the new millineum !!!

Gesteckt_Schmetterling يقول...
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Nah·det Masr يقول...

Peter,

I am strong proponent of a firm policy of restricting the number of children per family. If I become president, I will enact a law of this meaning!

Gesteckt,

I wouldn't go this far, there is an Egyptian movie produced in the 1980's (Awdat Mowaten) where one of the main characters (Mamdouh Abdel Alim) has some phsychiatric problems steming from his fear that people will be canibals by the turn for the century!

Forsoothsayer يقول...

bullshit. egypt's resources are well able to sustain its population - if managed adequately. as they are not now. it might also interest you to know that in the 30 years since the inception of the usaid funded family planning project, egypt's birth rate has gone way down, to almost merely sustainability level. nevertheless, the population pyramid still reveals a strong developing country bottom-heavy shape, which is a reflection of the poor standard of health care and the mortality rate.
while lowering the birth rate to sustainability levels is a worthy aim, i do not think we should aim for actual decrease; rather, better economic, health, and education policies are necessary.

Nah·det Masr يقول...

Forsoothsayer,

I hate to break it up to you, but in planning there is such concept as "Carrying Capacity", which is basically how much people this land can support. In the case of Egypt, it's much lower than 80mil! I am working on a research to determine the optimum size, but will take sometime. We can't expand in the desert because we have no water! if we start desalinating water to build desert towns, we will have to import energy!!! This current government is doing a wonderful job, increasing tourism, exports record increase, replenishing hardcurrency reserves to record high 30Bln, achieving 7+% GDP growth etc.. however, still the country's suffering, these changes are not enough to trickle down to poor people, my point here is that it is not mismanagement, if Adam Smith was running Egypt's economy, it would still be poor with probably 12mil supporting 80 mil (themselves included).