It is indisputable that Egypt’s administration needs drastic reforms to be able to meet the requirements for any kind of development, and to turn the slogans of the 2011 revolution and 2013 uprising into a reality. The ancient bureaucratic body lost its professional competency over the time, as well as its political and ideological neutrality, soon becoming part of the problem rather than a solution.
The civil service law, approved by the state before electing parliament, was not enough to bring about a qualitative change in the administration’s performance; however it was a step in the right direction.
Compared to many laws that were approved before the election of parliament, the civil service law is considered positive. This makes us wonder, why did the parliament pass so many laws at the same time as it rejected the civil service law? How do representatives in the parliament evaluate the quality of laws? This also makes us wonder about the nature of parliament’s political bias.
There is evidence to suggest that the parliamentary majority is biased towards “specific voting interests”. The parliament chose to reject the law to satisfy employees of the administrative body, who number nearly 6.5 million.
If we say that each employee has control over his own vote as well as a family member’s as an average, we will find ourselves faced with almost 15m votes that representatives in the parliament wanted to satisfy even if it went against their better judgment, regarding one of the most important development challenges in Egypt, and most likely their affiliations to parties in the parliament too.
Logically, a state cannot develop if its administrative body is in a situation like Egypt’s. Restructuring has become a necessity that rises above electoral interests and political affiliations. However it looks like these political actors are unable to take steps towards reform, which is why I am not optimistic about the final legal exit which will be decided immediately after the government’s amendments to the law and the parliament’s discussions.
I call upon the government to take it slow when presenting their proposal for amendments to the law, and to reconsider civil service law and other complementary laws in the light of a new vision.
The vision I propose to be adopted must take into consideration financial interests of the administrative body, as well as needs of the citizens and requirements for development. It must also pay attention to standards of social justice. This can only happen if the civil service law is altered to be generalised, meaning it would take into consideration all sectors owned by the state, local authorities, economic authorities, public sector companies, the banking system, the armed forces, the police and the judicial system.
According to this vision, the administrative body would not be required to go into details about job distribution and financial allocations. It would only have to outline specific guarantees of justice in wage distribution. This would also guarantee that job vacancies are filled based on experience and competence, and ensure that corruption and malpractice is confronted so each citizen can receive good service with clear standards.
After that, all other laws for each sector can be developed in a way that doesn’t contradict the ruling framework of the civil service law, and that suits the nature of jobs and the types of services offered, because, for example, it would not make sense that providers of public educational and medical services would be managed using the same rules as those of workers in the judiciary system, or the banking system, or even workers in public sector companies. The latter group achieves revenues totally different from the achieved social benefits that result from this different kind of services offered by the state to its citizens.
Dealing with the state’s administrative body as a single entity is a huge mistake that will spoil the essence of any legislation, and will open doors for exceptions that distort the true meaning of justice, eventually feeding the state of rejection by the people to the law. It will also cause a prevalence of political polarisation.
Slowing down in issuing the law is much better than issuing a distorted law that adds nothing but conflict.
Walaa Gad El-Karim is a researcher, writer and Middle East consultant, and the Director of Partners for Transparency