Archive for August, 2014

I do not remember when was the first time I met with Ibrahim Mahlab, but his name has always been associated with positive decisions. However, I clearly remember the day I visited him in his office when he was head of the Arab Contractors Company. What made me see him at the time was the administration’s ability to turn the company into a real success story. I often refer to it as a model of successful management.images11

During my visit, Mahlab noted that his office contained questionnaires on employees, as the major problem he confronted when he became the company’s head in 1997 was how to build a special relation between employees and the firm. The questionnaire contained employees’ personal details, education, health, interests and priorities in life.

I saw in Mahlab the right figure to lead the government for two major reasons

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Mahlab used the data to devise a model of services based on understanding employees’ real needs. I think this is the main reason behind the company’s success, and I hoped to implement this strategy at the post that I held at the time.

Mahlab was in Saudi Arabia when he was offered the post of Egyptian housing minister. He had been subjected to injustice – like many others – as he was targeted by a campaign aimed at distorting his reputation.

Although he held a senior post at a private Saudi company, he immediately returned to Egypt without “making any calculations” to assume the ministerial post. After all, some decisions are not calculated when it comes to the national interest.

Some voiced doubt

Before being tasked to form a government, some people voiced doubt that he was the right man for the job at a difficult time. Some cited Egypt’s need for more of a politician than an executive. They thus thought that a politician capable of dealing and maneuvering with political parties was more appropriate than Mahlab. Others demanded that the prime minister be an economist, given that the economy is the country’s biggest challenge.

I saw in Mahlab the right figure to lead the government for two major reasons. The first is the special relation that he built between himself and the simple citizen. This is due to his spontaneous behavior, which made people feel that he was one of them, not a stranger or superior. This is in addition to Mahlab’s ability to communicate in a way that bridged the gap between officials and citizens.

The second reason is his ability to strengthen the value of work and efforts. His presence among employees at different sites presented a model of an official who is capable of executing what he is tasked with.

These two characteristics earned Mahlab real popularity among ordinary Egyptians, despite some people’s reservations. I saw in Mahlab “the man of the phase,” and this point of view turned out to be right.

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I haven’t been able to visit my family in my hometown for quite a while. The recent Eid al-Fitr holiday was an occasion to make this visit. It was a chance to take a trip down memory lane. City residents’ visits to their hometowns have for a long time been an occasion for those residing elsewhere to send messages to the authority in the capital. It doesn’t matter if these visitors from the city are of real influence in the capital, but their mere presence in the city is considered a communication privilege.images

This is an old habit of townspeople. Despite modern means of communication and the various media outlets – which have turned into a wide spread, controlling monster – there’s still the habit of conveying one’s voice via residents of the capital, especially if the latter have real contact with decision makers.

I personally experience this every time I left Cairo to visit my hometown.

But this time was different. The messages they conveyed were a mixture of hope, worry, anticipation and suppressed anger. I noticed that all these messages began with the phrase “tell Sisi.” Each message carried a certain tone but even as tones differed, all messages implied hope in Sisi and his ability to govern. This hope however did not prevent people from expressing anger – which are restrained by many positive feelings towards the president currently felt in the country.

‘We want to know’

“Tell Sisi that we love him and that we accepted the increase of fuel prices although they were a direct cause to the increase of all prices. Tell Sisi not to believe statements from government officials who say they have been able to control price increases or that merchants have promised to have fixed prices. The cost of living has become very high. Tell Sisi we can tolerate more than this but on the condition that our hopes are fulfilled in the future. Tell him to instill hope in us for what lies ahead. We can tolerate power cuts, but we want to know who is responsible, when the problem will be solved and how it will be solved. We want to know.”

“Tell Sisi hospitals still suffer and we still suffer. You solved the problem of doctors (going on strike) but hospitals’ services are still as bad as they were. There are hospitals in Egypt that deserve attention other than the Qasr el-Aini Hospital which the prime minister visited more than once. There are other hospitals across the country’s towns and cities. There are also other hospitals which are far from the capital which if are not fixed, attempts to reform the health system will not succeed.

“Tell Sisi the plan to build more than 3,000 kilometers of road is an important and great project but we are asking him to look into the situation of existing roads with reports he commissions himself. Tell Sisi to try traveling on the ‘coastal international route’ which has parts as long as 100 kilometers are with no lighting and no evidence of maintenance being carried out. It’s a real death road. And they call it an international road, so what about other roads? The Cairo–Alexandria desert route should not be the only focus. Let’s establish new roads. This is important but before that let’s save whatever roads we have. Let’s save lives being wasted and let’s save the bleeding economy.”

The messages haven’t ended yet.

This article was first published in almasry alyoum on August 18, 2014.