Egypt can inspire new Arab world
By : Mohammed Fahd Al-Harthi
Egypt is on the cusp of again taking up its historical role as the source of political, cultural and social inspiration and regeneration in the Arab world.
As world leaders flocked to the Federal Palace in the heart of Cairo this past week for the inauguration of President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi, the message was clear: This was an opportunity for a bright new future for the African and Arab powerhouse. There was the overwhelming sense that Egypt was looking to the future and not the past.
Egypt’s absence from its previous central role in the Arab world because of its internal problems had been sorely missed over the past few years. In addition, when the country had close ties with Saudi Arabia, the region enjoyed significant political stability.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had previously been part and parcel of this stabilizing force, but its own disputes have rendered it less effective. This resulted in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) forming a strategic alliance that filled the leadership void in the region, in the hope that it would act as a catalyst to ease tensions and restart the unification process.
Saudi Arabia has nailed its colors to the mast, with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah calling on world leaders to aid Egypt in its time of need. The king has made it clear that Egypt’s security is vital for the wellbeing of the Kingdom and other countries in the region. King Abdullah recently had a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi, to discuss the Gulf region’s commitment to Egypt.
An alliance of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE creates further momentum in the efforts to revive the region and ensure peace and prosperity for its people. It will also prevent outside players of having undue influence in the internal affairs of countries.
The Gulf states have deep historical relations with Egypt simply because of the region’s geography. Egypt and Saudi Arabia share the Red Sea, with the Suez Canal pipelines carrying two-thirds of the Gulf’s oil to important global markets. In addition, people of the Gulf share family and cultural ties with the Egyptian populace. There are also three million Egyptians working in GCC countries representing an important source of foreign currency for the country.
El-Sissi faces difficult challenges but enjoys popular support among his people, proven by the 23 million votes he received in the presidential elections. He also has the added advantage of having the trust of various Egyptian institutions, the army and the international community in the trying times ahead.
El-Sissi’s new government faces tough economic challenges. There is little doubt that unpopular decisions will have to be made, including reducing subsidies for some goods, and making other changes to improve the productivity of the nation’s industries. El-Sissi pointed out that the country had a budget deficit of more than 21 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at one stage.
The new president has argued that the nation’s problems cannot be solved overnight. However, there is a window of opportunity here for him to ride on the mood of optimism sweeping the country by taking bold and creative decisions. Radical change is needed. As the Chinese proverb says: “A crisis is an opportunity riding a dangerous wind.”
There is little doubt that a balance of power can be achieved in the region by combining the Gulf’s economic and political influence with the weight of Egypt’s history and current potential. The relationship can blossom if independent institutions are set up to cement this relationship.
As King Abdullah stated recently: “We should realize that those capable of meeting their obligations today and are reluctant to do so have no place among us tomorrow when they face problems.”
Egypt has rightly decided to take its future and destiny in its own hands.