tarek osman compares egypt to a surrealist painting in one of the best articles on the country i have read recently.

osman, who is a ‘merchant banker’ as well as a writer is well worth keeping track of. his introduction to the article:

Egypt’s current state resembles a surrealist painting. It is difficult to decipher its components, challenging to comprehend its meaning. At the centre of the painting there are dark, abrasive lines; most onlookers would see them depicting anger, frustration and occasionally menace. At the peripherals, there are softer lines, perhaps symbols of potential and promise.

the article touches on most of the big issues: inequality, islam, corruption and demography.

understandably it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to think of a way for egypt to claw out of its under-performing funk.it seems to me that there are two approaches to dealing with a wildly exploding population.

  1. a) become consumed with containing and controlling the populace.
  2. b) obsess about turning the populace into an asset.

china, pre-xiaoping went down first routebefore he turned to the second. 30 years later it’s an economic behemoth that most of the world is in awe of. the east-asian tigers are other examples of successfuly nurturing human capital.

in my mind, osman misses the biggest issue though. the trouble with egypt’s primary failing- its education system – is that it is comparatively hidden (whereas traffic, pollution, corruption, inequality are inescapable) and that its payoff is a generation away. i do think it is at the root of much of egypt’s modern ills.

hat tip: jack shenker.

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