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The Signature Of All Things

“The old cobbler had believed in something he called “the signature of all things”-namely, that God had hidden clues for humanity’s betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth. All the natural world was a divine code, Boehme claimed, containing proof of our Creator’s love.” 

On Measuring Up

Random question:

If someone acts in a certain way which contradicts with your ethical and moral framework, would you hold it against them?

Or would you factor in that not everyone’s views on these issues are the same and that perhaps what is taboo to you is less taboo by many others?

Hence, would the fact that you wouldn’t do it make them having done it necessarily wrong?

 

To Die For

Not to sound insensitive, yet I feel there is an overwhelming fixation in Cairo with the idea of dying for something. I recently lost a good friend so a bit melodramatic in that regard. Yet putting that aside, kindly observe the extent to which death is always dragged into the discussion. Fanatics and regular Joe(s) are constantly using this as the ultimate benchmark, your willingness to die for a cause.

I have heard people claim they would die for loved ones, an ideology, a cause, a religion, a country, a way of life, the revolution, etc..

I appreciate the sacrifice involved, I do. I understand why that would come across as the ultimate level of commitment and dedication.

I am just posing a slightly different question, what in life are you willing to LIVE for? Like really live for, dedicate a lifetime to working towards and spare no time, effort, energy, spirit, heart, soul and money towards making it happen.

Would you live your life working diligently towards a better Egypt, towards the achievement of a specific goal, towards furthering a cause you believe in? Would you live to spread and ensure the success of that idea, cause, religion, ideology, political party, etc?

I really hope that the answer is yes more often. I really wish we would start living for our dreams and causes. Too much has already been lost. Too many martyrs. I really hope we can work on the ground day in day out on making sure their sacrifice was worth it, that our causes have a chance because we LIVED for them.

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Human Progress

For the majority of my tween years I abused a John Nash quote like a mantra. “To find a truly original idea, it is the only way I will ever distinguish myself, the only way I will ever really matter.”

Yet, what if John Nash had it wrong? What if the ideas are only as good as the minds that accept them and implement them?

What if it is about the people after all? Does it make ideological, philosophical and scientific progress any less significant?

The imperatives of the human progress. *Sigh*

Before I’m Gone

Bassem’s departure has me obsessing about my own mortality, my own life choices and my own legacy.

I find myself circling the drain with regard to the topic of bucket lists, circles of influence, legacies and impact.

So I decided to dust off and update my old bucket list.

The last update of the list can be found here.

Here goes nothing:

  • Travel the world. Safari in Kenya, dance in the streets of Brazil, snorkel around the Australian reef, pray in Palestine and take a photo sitting cross-legged on the floor in the square in front of the Kremlin.
  • Write and publish a book that means a lot to me and which becomes a worldwide (ok, fine! regional or local) best-seller in the field of economics or business. Extra points if it has an awareness and/or local flavour.
  • Jump out of a plane (preferably with a co-conspirator who understands the beauty of that experience).
  • Start my own firm. Indifferent between a boutique management consulting firm and a VC.
  • Write a hit song. Get a friend to sing it. Record it in a proper studio. Get the radio to air it.
  • Study abroad at an Ivy league school (and get the highest GPA of that class).
  • Hold a photography exhibition. Work on my craft to be worthy of hosting one.
  • Speak at an international (economic) forum.
  • Teach university.
  • Become the policy maker.
  • Be the best boss that I can.
  • Be a positive influence.
  • Strive to learn something new every day. Seek to spread that knowledge and coach and teach others every day.
  • Inspire people.
  • Make Egypt a better place.

What is on your bucket lists?!

You will notice that some under-achieved items from the last update have been dropped all-together in favour of different pursuits.

Farwell to Batman

This is for me. I would have loved to claim that it was for him. Or for all of you. Yet this is for me. To cope. To believe. To survive.

Bassem Sabry is dead.

You have all heard. The tragic news has spread across social media like wildfire and has depressed friends, fans and loved ones across the globe.

Yet most of the formal news is talking about the political activist. Yet as I sit here, a mere citizen of the world, I mourn the man, the beautiful soul that he was.

Bassem Sabry was one of the finest men you would ever meet. Fact.

Since 2001 Bassem has been a staple of our faculty walls and of our beloved “Retro”. The cafe’s most frequent patrons knew him by sight if not in person. We all practically lived there. I shall probably be demanding they put up a Batman poster in his honour.

To understand the constant Batman references, read Dahshan’s stunning piece here.

Bassem was the eternal optimist. He was born with a thirst for knowledge and an impeccable internal compass. He was always seeking enlightenment and truth. Moreover, he was constantly going out of his way to make sure that this was never an individual pursuit. That the light was always shared. That his growing wisdom and knowledge base was simplified and shared with the masses through multiple real-life and digital media forums. Socrates cafe, his blog, his article-writing, his facebook groups…

Moreover, he moved so seamlessly through multiple circles, being a constant beacon of positivity and awesomeness in all of them. Ever the intellectual, the cinema producer, the batman enthusiast, the geek, the blogger, the writer, the politician, the activist, the philosopher, the Latin dancer, the kick-ass guitarist, the friend, THE dude.

Those of you who knew him personally would understand the magnitude of our collective loss. We have all reached out to each other over the last 12 hours with condolences and support.

Those of you who didn’t have followed his noble attempts at making the world a better place. At being the voice of reason amidst all the madness. At being his own man.

His pursuit for greatness and happiness was relentless. Moreover, he sought to define and simplify that happiness and empower the masses to seek it out and to find it.

I leave you with the man himself:

Update: I feel compelled to ask you to read about him through his eyes. What it meant to him to turn 30 and all the life lessons he wanted to share with the world. Check it out here. 

لكي الله يا مصر

 

Guide to Economic Recovery

3 years later. We are pretty much where we were on the economic front. Outlook remains shady yet the recommendations remain constant. I still wish there were more consistent efforts by the economic community to spread awareness and to educate.

Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind

Kindly check your political views at the door.

Many of you have been calling and e-mailing asking for my “economic” view on what’s happening, forecasted impact on the economy and what can be done.

I would much prefer to focus on the last point because worrying and fretting about impact is a useless exercise while exploring what we can do might actually have some good.

1) Regarding the campaign to invest 100 LE in the Egyptian Stock Market. In my humble opinion this is a minimum impact exercise, the only ones who stand to really gain are those seeking to currently exit the market and the brokerage companies. The money you invest goes into the pockets of previous owners of that stock, the company itself (whose stock you are buying) does not benefit. This money will not result in production or job generation, let alone any impact on the real…

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My Keys

My mother, the most awesome being alive, is unwell these days. Prayers are highly welcome. Hence in tribute to her divine existence and in an attempt to sooth my frayed nerves and avert a panic-attack, I am sharing a post from 2006 in remembrance. I echo these prayers today. “May you all never have to carry keys to your homes.”

“This harmless bunch of shiny objects doesn’t include a key to our house. Yet that is so symbolic of my life as a whole. My conditional independence. My parents over-protectiveness. My general lack of responsibilities. A total care-freedom. Most of all, its a reminder, that anytime I get home, no matter what my arrival time is, there is always going to be someone there. That all my family are well, that my mother or grandma are going to lovingly open the door, ask how my day has been, feed me and tell me about theirs. May I never have to carry a key to our door.”

Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind

Do you believe objects have memories? That day to day mundane objects that you carry or that lie around the house in fact remember where they’ve been. Could it be possible that the secrets of history and the way we used to be are locked up embedded in wood and stone, completely unaccessible.

It sits there on my desk, even as I type this, it seems it is forever around, if somebody was ever to write my biography it would be such a good source, if only it could speak. Most of you have already seen it, the massive bunch of things that constitutes my “keys”. Yet calling them keys is really a lie, for its just one key and a bunch of chains.

It’s funny, I never purchase key chains when I’m abroad. I am a firm believer that travel is a gift in itself, the sights and sounds…

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Overwhelmed

I am in no way expecting this to go viral or to turn into some sort of campaign. I am writing this down because the thought behind it has been haunting me all morning and I feel absolutely obligated to document it and act upon it.

Dear Former Boss/ Mentor/ Professor,

I know we do not speak or meet regularly, yet no day goes by that you do not cross my mind. Not in an intentional and deliberate way, but rather in a casual familiarity brought forth by the daily nuances that make me who I am. For that, quintessentially, is who I am. I am made up of  millions of little fragments of wisdom, advise, habits, ethics, routines, ideologies, opinions and perceptions to life adopted and adapted from you.

It is so easy to forget that, in the hectic self-absorbing daily life. Yet today I wanted to pause and reflect, to reach out to you and let you know. I am thankful for your time, effort and attention. I am thankful for every time you gave a damn. I am grateful for all the positive reinforcement and the harsh critique. I am incredibly and overwhelmingly thankful. You have had a profound and fundamental effect on who I am, how I think, how I approach life and how I evaluate things.

Yet it extends beyond the philosophical and the ideological to the most mundane and routine tasks. I actually remember different people with gratitude every time I do basic algebra in my head, reference I.G.C.S.E o-levels, tutor economics, use excel or powerpoint features, draft a work e-mail, decide on what to wear to a client meeting or count to 10 before having a fit.

I quote you…. constantly… over the most random and trivial of things. I speak of you fondly and often. I hope that by some stroke of luck you end up reading this note on this little corner of the Egyptian blogosphere. Yet if that does not pan out; I vow to make more of an effort in 2014 to drop you a line every now and then to make sure you are well and to let you know that you are on the minds of your students and former employees & colleagues everywhere.

Love..

2011 Wishes

Pre-revolution I had reached the conclusions that the things we need most in Egypt are tolerance, awareness, self growth and serenity. This still holds true now as 2013 has come to a close.
Yet for 2014 I just wish you all peace of mind. It is the one thing I have missed the most in 2013 and which I’ve seen people struggle with the most. Peace of mind with all it entails. The courage to do the right thing. The maturity to know what the right thing is. The faith not to struggle with the decision once it has been made. Peace of mind.

Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind

  • Tolerance.
  • Awareness.
  • Growth.
  • Serenity.
  • Health.
  • Change.
  • Challenge.
  • Learning.
  • Courage to start over.
  • Travel.
  • Acceptance.
  • Freedom of want/need.
  • Cool bosses, productive subordinates and fun coworkers.
  • Time to smell the roses.

For a wordier list of wishes, see here.

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Counting Stars 2013

In an attempt to revive this abandoned fluff of cyberspace, bringing back an old tradition of mashing up the year’s review with a hit that stuck with me throughout it.

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby, I been, I been prayin’ hard
Said no more counting dollars
We’ll be counting stars
Yeah, we’ll be counting stars

I can’t really tell if 2013 was generally positive or negative. It has most certainly been educational. I feel I have ended it as a deeper and darker shade of myself. Who was it that said that as you grow older you do not change, you merely become more of who you’ve always been? Yet I leave this year a darker version of myself, less optimistic, less willing to compromise, less forgiving…

I see this life
Like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
In my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye shall find

I saw some great losses in 2013. I have lost to death some individuals who had a profoundly positive impact on life as we know it. They vary in proximity, yet share their greatness. I trust that they are in far better places than we, yet I am still pained by their loss.

2013 was also the year of discovery, new pursuits, new cities, new facets of people I had known for years. Challenge and travel tend to bring people together. I am thrilled at all my discoveries and shall carry these cities in my heart fondly and will honour these new friendships.

Old, but I’m not that old
Young, but I’m not that bold
And I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told

I spent 2013 being the anti-social workaholic. It has negatively impacted my health and has cost me nerves, friendships and the missing of some very important occasions. I vow to regain work-life balance in 2014.

I feel something so right
By doing the wrong thing
And I feel something so wrong
By doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

I learned a lot in 2013. I learned that you can be MVP all season and still get benched. I learned that there is no rest on that bench. Ultimately there is no rest full-stop. I’m having to operate outside my comfort zone 24/7. Wonder how long till the zone adjusts or the revolution happens.

I feel the love
And I feel it burn
Down this river every turn
Hope is our four letter word
Make that money
Watch it burn

I still carry the dream with me. Its flame burns fiercer than ever. Perhaps 2014 is the year. I remain cautiously optimistic about the outcomes.

Take that money
Watch it burn
Sing in the river
The lessons I learned

This wasn’t very engaging to the reader, I realize that now as I wrap it up, yet it is more for personal archiving, for remembrance.

Picture Perfect

Hmm, so I went through with it. Best decision I ever made. Would love you input on my attempts. You can check out the makeshift portfolio here: http://500px.com/InjiAmr

Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind

These days I’m finding myself increasingly attracted to the idea of a semi-professional camera. I don’t believe I have an innate talent for photography. Whatever decent shots I’ve taken, I’ve taken by pure dumb luck and due to the fact that mother nature is so overwhelmingly beautiful at times, that it is impossible to take a bad shot.

When you think of someone, especially someone you know well, the mental image that you get of them, that’s who they are in your eyes. It is the time you feel they are most genuine or most themselves, or perhaps the best possible version of themselves. They are probably moments you’ve captured and retained from real life. From a smile over a cup of coffee who’s odor made someone beam with happiness. Or the image of them smiling a certain way, using a particular hand gesture, saying a particular phrase.

For instance to this…

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Made To Order

At the end of 2006, Time magazine declared the reader, the individual, the average Joe; the Man of the Year. It was a testament to the overwhelming growth in user-generated content that took the world by storm during that year. Social media platforms were empowering individuals, like me and you around the globe to become overnight sensations; citizen journalists, artists, writers and educators. Individuals worldwide were creating content and news and contributing through the available platforms (blogging websites, YouTube, twitter, Facebook, Flickr) at the same frequency as they we were consuming it. We were becoming increasingly aware of our individuality, our opinions and our need to be heard.

This egocentric attitude and massive need for customization and uniqueness forced companies worldwide to abandon their standard off the shelf products. Corporates around the world no longer had the luxury once afforded to Ford to claim that their customers “could have the car in any colour as long as it is black”. This was a new day and age and the customer was king. Moreover, this customer (existing and prospective) sought to be actively involved in product and service design, positioning and delivery.

This led to the rise of mass customization; corporates had to find a way to break down their final product into modular components that could be assembled in different ways to avail each customer the opportunity to customize and build their own unique product. This enabled corporates to massively expand their product offering as they would now make to order. Henceforth, by allowing the customer to select specifications and alternatives from a list of options, the corporate could now claim to offer countless product possibilities.

I still recall spending hours on the Dell website dreaming up and virtually assembling and building super laptops. Yet this concept, which most associate with high technology products and manufacturing, has migrated into the retail food business here in Cairo. Food and beverage manufacturers and retailers are realizing the need to interface more aggressively and dynamically with their customer. Hence we, as end users, are increasingly allowed, furthermore invited, to build our own salads, sandwiches, pastas, pizzas and even drinks all over Cairo at outlets such as TBS, Saladero, Marly’s Kitchen and countless others.

This is of great importance due to the weight of the food sector in Egypt. For according to the Central Authority for Public Mobility & Statistics the average Egyptian family spends 39.9% of their annual expenditure on food and drinks. That is almost twice the amount spent on housing and almost six folds the amount spent on healthcare. The majority of this food and beverage expenditure is eaten up by proteins, grains and vegetables. This has reflected on the retail side, where according to the general authority for investment, 47% of all retail generated sales come from food and drink outlets. Furthermore, from a manufacturing point of view, agribusiness and food and beverage manufacturing constitutes 27.5% of all manufacturing production in Egypt. Hence it was probably inevitable that all budding and successful business models would be attractive expansion strategies for those operating in the agribusiness and food and beverage segments.

Meanwhile, this global phenomenon of massive customization has been working in tandem with yet another customer-centric phenomenon; manufacturers are investing heavily in forward integration endeavors. Corporates in Cairo are seeing the benefit of operation in proximity to the end consumer, where feedback is instantaneous and real consumption statistics can be measured and analyzed. Agribusiness manufacturers are opting to integrate forward by establishing dedicated retail outlets, such as the case with regard to Wadi Food or Koki; or through setting up restaurant chains.

Shady Mokhtar of Swiss Choice is one such example. The young entrepreneur started out with an idea to bridge a gap in the Egyptian market for delicacies. He observed as the existing agribusiness manufactures of meat, chicken and fish catered their limited list of identified products to the retail and HORECA (HOtels, REstaurants and CAtering) segments. He too had come to the realization of the importance of customization. Armed with that belief, Swiss Choice embarked upon the journey of becoming the first manufacturer in Egypt that allows its customer base an extensive amount of tailoring with regard to the products. Swiss Choice indulged their customer base by inviting each customer to request that Swiss Choice manufacture his/her own unique and proprietary recipe for different sausages, salamis and pepperonis. This granted Mokhtar the instantaneous advantage of having an almost infinite product list. Mokhtar’s customers appreciated the variety and customization, moreover, several sought to stream-line their Egypt offering with their global recipes in order to ensure a unified customer experience everywhere around the world. This gave birth to Swiss Choice second selling proposition, the exclusivity in particular products granted to customers whom are very keen on maintaining the uniqueness and confidentiality of their recipes and product preferences.

Mokhtar’s business model made him an attractive partner to some other creative young individuals. He was approached with the idea of mass customization restaurant chains to capitalize on the Swiss Choice success in customized products. This newly formed partnership ventured into the restaurant industry by creating three unique local brands: Top Dawgs for American style hot dogs, Ali Baba Doner Kebab for Turkish shawerma and finally Mr. Wok for Chinese take-out (mainly Noodles). All three ventures were built on the concept of mass customization where the dish or sandwich is built using an assembly line set-up. For instance, at Top Dawgs you are free to select the bread, sausage, toppings and condiments. Mr.Wok allows you to design your own Noodles dish with a selection of Noodles, protein, vegetables and sauce.

When asked to evaluate the experience Mokhtar seemed rather pleased with the preliminary results. “Our drive”, he said, “came from the belief that there is great unmet potential in the food and beverage industry in Egypt. Hence, my partners and I decided to opt for 3 restaurant types that have not been previously tested in Egypt”. His view rings very true, since whilst mass customization is invading the restaurant business in Egypt, his three selections could greatly be considered Blue Ocean (a dive into an unsaturated market where he would have a first mover advantage) or at the least uniquely positioned.

Another key advantage or attribute of the experience that Mokhtar values greatly is the learning he and his partners have gained. Mokhtar and his partners had decided against purchasing franchising rights of famous global brands, opting instead to build their own brand. This was both challenging and cost effective, as this saved them the initial large investment and financial outlay associated with the franchising contract, moreover it gave them free reign with regard to creative aspects of the restaurants. When building your own brand you have the luxury of being able to design your own logo, setting, atmosphere and menu; more significantly it allows you to customize your offering to suit the dynamic tastes of the Egyptian consumer. Hence came the realization that for a local brand to be successful mass customization was the way forward, customer insight and involvement were instrumental to success and to the ability to compete, succeed, grow and scale the operation.

This business model has resulted in a very steep learning curve for Mokhtar and the team. “We are able to get on the spot feedback from the clients on the products we would normally sell to retailers and get limited or delayed feedback on”. This ability to interact with the customer and get first hand feedback on consumption preferences of the product, frequency of consumption, preferred complimentary products and finally comments on flavor, size, quality and variety enable the young entrepreneur to improve the Swiss Choice products in their manufacturing phases.

I wondered if these successful mass customization restaurants in Zamalek and Mohandseen have had an impact on Swiss Choice’s business to business sales by virtue of brand associations; given that Mokhtar’s restaurants proudly bear a “Powered by Swiss Choice” emblem.  “It is too soon to say”, says Mokhtar, “logic would claim that the affiliation would enable us to leverage the brand and sell more. Yet the restaurants are localized to one area of the city and have not been in operation long enough for me to draw accurate inferences about their impact on business.”

The largest challenge of shifting from being solely a manufacturer and distributor, to being the retailer at which the customer can consume the product is the risk of failure. “Our competitive advantage as Swiss Choice is our ability to customize our production lines to suit changing customer requirements; this means that should we discontinue a product or start a new one, minor changes have to be made to the production floor.” Mokhtar continued, “In the restaurant business on the other hand, you invest in a location, brand, concept, staff and marketing; then if the restaurant doesn’t take-off as planned in 6 months’ time, you would have to scrap the entire investment and start over”. “There are no quick fixes in a business-to-customer or retail setting” Mokhtar concluded.

Yet, given his own experience, Mokhtar expects that more and more agribusiness manufacturers will focus on integrating forward along their value chains in order to maximize their margins and in order to gain the advantages of customer interaction. “At the end, accurate and detailed customer insight is the real advantage.”

Originally written for Business Today

On Career Moves

I guess what most people fail to see when they shift careers 5 – 7 years into their work life is how difficult starting over truly is. You would be amazed at the amount of knowledge, skills and basic understanding that becomes irrelevant or which must be chucked at the door. Welcome to a new world where you have to rapidly absorb new concepts, approaches, knowledge, skills and work-styles which seem second nature to everyone around you. Many of which are several years your junior. In this environment it is adapt or die. You will soon find yourself being a source of disappointment, frustration, awe and support to yourself and others several times within the same day. Like mad hot flashes of awesomeness or sheer and epic failure. It doesn’t get easier. Not immediately. It takes patience, tolerance and an honest to God willingness to put your ego on hold and embrace the learning experience. Believe me, it is taking a lot of patience, tolerance and hard work from those on the other side of the equation whom are attempting to kick you into gear so you could pull your own weight.

All of the above is even more true for the world of management consulting, where there is very little that is static or dependably constant. Life is a whirlwind of concepts, clients, engagements, strategies, tasks, deliverables, meetings, negotiations and deadlines. Moreover it is all happening in turbo speed. The phrase “multi-tasking” starts to take on new meaning. As does “work-life-balance” if you are not careful. The environment isn’t hostile, but it isn’t fuzzy, nor is it supposed to be.

You were hired, congrats, we recognize the talent. Now please step up and live up to our best expectation of you. Strike that, strive really hard to out-do our best expectation of you. Show up early, read, read some more, ask, listen when people attempt to explain things to you, learn the rules so you can be allowed to break the rules, befriend google, read again, remember to breathe….

Yet when you do take that moment a couple of months down the road to stop, take a long breath and admire the roses, be sure to know that “we are proud of you”. Congratulations, you made it. More often than none, the career move would have been totally worth it. Yet if that isn’t the case, there is no shame in realizing you made the wrong move, just be sure you are not just escaping back to a comfort zone.

Good luck to all of you.

صندوق دعم مصر 306306

Updated! Since Nerro asked. Here is my take on http://www.youm7.com/News.asp?NewsID=1149794

While I think it is nice that the business community is excited about contributing I have some concerns about the format.

1. As far as I can tell, it is a privately set up fund. I am yet to hear any commentary from the transitional government in that regard (if you’ve heard anything please share it in the comments & I’d be more than happy to update the post). So I am not quite sure how the dynamics will work in terms of spending that money.

2. I am a bit on the paranoid side, I don’t like investing in “elfankoush”. Some transparency is in order. This would have been a much better initiative (in my opinion) if instead of setting up a fund they identified 3 flagship projects. Then each of these projects would have had a definitive objective, OWNER, plan and targeted start up costs. I am modelling this after the success of the 57357 hospital. People felt encouraged to donate because they associated it with a real project with tangible results.

3. While I believe in quick wins, spending this money on consumption rather than investment activities would be such a shame. It would be like flushing the money down the drain, one time usage only. I would really like the spending criteria to be linked to SUSTAINABILITY and RETURN ON INVESTMENT. The people are digging out of their own savings, the least you could do for them is assure them that they are teaching you to fish rather than feeding you that day. Moreover, I am biased towards any endeavor that results in job creation since it drives towards greater sustainability and prosperity through the consumption multiplier.

4. I am all for healthcare & education, but it isn’t the time yet. These need far more sophisticated & well orchestrated reform plans.

5. The ability of the nation to export or attract foreign expenditure is key moving forward. So extra points if the project tackles logistics, tourism or enables us to export.

6. I would suggest projects along the lines of:

  • Renewable energy power generation facility
  • Revamping the railway system
  • A metro system
  • A chain of publicly owned bakeries ensuring good quality affordable bread around the nation
  • Production facilities
  • A Tourism related project

Those are my thoughts ya Nerro. The project suggestions draws on popular support expressed by fellow economists on my FB wall.

Update:

Naguib Sawiras echoed these very views during his ONTv interview here: http://youtu.be/PFC7M4pO-Qo?t=21m58s

1984 – 2013

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.”

Random Economic Musings

I am writing this because I bumped into the very talented Tarek at an entrepreneurship forum and he asked for my 2 cents on things. The following lines are not based on any scientific nor quantitative analysis and are instead the musings of a former economist.

  • In the following months the foreign exchange situation will continue to worsen. Banks are currently rationing their disbursement of funds to basic commodities and absolute necessities. It is not unimaginable that soon we will have extremely limited access to imported products. Black markets are likely to emerge. Prices of imported products are expected to rise dramatically. This can currently be observed in the prices of vehicles, furniture and clothing.
  • With regard to expenditure; we had been experiencing an expenditure boom inspired by the sense of uncertainty and the double-digit inflation. Individuals sought to hedge against the rising prices and worsening pound value by spending. This initial boom is now dying out as more and more individuals face uncertainty regarding their income levels and job security.
  • Corporates are feeling the full weight of a cash crunch. Their imported (or locally purchased for that matter) components are more expensive than usual, foreign currency is hard to come by and terms of payments with suppliers (especially abroad) have worsened considerably. Banks should be offering a way out to these companies through financing their working capital and providing them with extended facilities and bridge financing to tide them through these rough times. Yet I am unsure of the risk appetite the banks seem to be displaying these days. It would seem that it is increasingly tougher to find affordable & timely finances.
  • My anxiety comes from the fact that it is the little guys who will be hit worst. Banks would have a lower appetite to finance a cash crunch for a smaller company or a start-up than it would be had the company been a large & established one. Hence those whom are most in need for financing are least likely to get it. Or would get it at disadvantageous rates.
  • As small companies shut down or fail to survive these turbulent times jobs are lost. This increase in unemployment as the job market shrinks is likely to have two opposing impacts. The first (the positive side) is a boom in entrepreneurship  Young men and women will abandon dreams of a stable job at a big name and will instead follow their bliss. Granted a lot of these projects will be in the food & beverage segments and others in trading (commission & delivery based projects), yet eventually more manufacturing based ideas are bound to emerge. The second trend (far less positive) would be the rise of crime and illegal activities as people strain to support their families.
  • Spending on media & advertising will fall as companies become more and more fraudulent with their spending. You must have noticed the rapidly growing number of empty billboards. This spells good news for my social media guru friends though as companies will shift towards more creative forms of advertising.

Tarek, this is off the top of my head. Will keep adding to it throughout the week as ideas pop up, or if people ask specific questions in the comments.