Monday, March 12, 2007

Business Bureaucracy 1: Avoiding government: Egyptian experience

A report from the International Herald Tribune last Feb. 28, 2007, "Egyptians look to God, not government, for help" (by Michael Slackman), said:

"...Cairo is home to 15 million and often described as the center of the Arab world, an incubator of culture and ideas... The fisherman on the Nile, the shepherd in the road and residents ofso- called informal communities say their experiences navigating city life have taught them the same lessons: the government is not there to better their lives; advancement is based on connections and bribes; the central authority is at best a benign force to be avoided. "Everything is from God," said Mezar, the fisherman, who was speaking practically, not theologically. "There is no such thing as government. The government is one thing and we are something else. What am I going to get from the government?"

...One brick in the foundation of single-party rule has been public resignation. There is no widespread expectation that the authorities will give the common man a voice, and so there is rarely any outrage when they do not. The fisherman, the shepherd and Fathy all said that the most they could hope for from the government was that it stay out of their lives. "We hope God keeps the municipality away from us," Sayed said as hesat in a wooden chair, surveying his fetid flock of goats and sheepwith headlights streaming by.

Such a feeling of separation is one reason that the leadership has been able to clamp down on opposition political activities without incurring widespread public wrath, political analysts say." People see the government as something quite foreign or removed from their lives," said Diane Singerman, a professor in government at the American University in Washington who has written extensively aboutCairo. "Commuters to the city, or poor peddlers and working people, do not see the government as particularly interested in their lives, andthey also see politics as quite elite and risky and something to stayaway from."

Officials say part of the disillusionment comes from unrealistic expectations, a holdover from the heady days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Egyptian leader from 1954 to 1970, when government jobs were deemed a right and cradle-to- grave care a promise...

Rest of article at

This feeling by the poor in Cairo could be the feeling of most Egyptian taxpayers, where the costs of government -- the myriads of taxes, fees, regulations, inspections, accreditations -- are very clear but the benefits are minimal, if any.

Once a government bureaucracy has reached a certain level of"bigness", it acquires a life of its own and its main purpose is to perpetuate itself, if not expand further. In that case, government service becomes "self service" and those in the private sector, thosewho toil a lot to feed an ever-expanding bureaucracy, are engaged in real "public service" based on voluntary exchange.

The Philippine bureaucracy as a whole I think, has not reached that level yet. Many local government bureaucracies though, have bad attitude problem, that those wanting to become entrepreneurs and job creators are seen as potential labor exploiters, potential environmental pests, andpotential perpetuators of social inequality. Hence, they must be strictly regulated even before they can start opening up their business.

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