Al Ahram Newspaper
Figures with bold and innovative ideas arouse a great deal of controversy and dispute; and become the focus of hated battles between supporters and opponents. Many deal with such figures with excessive acceptance and support or excessive rejection and denial. Such was the fate of Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid when he assumed responsibility for the Egyptian economy in 1979, owing to his personal makeup, his boldness and ambition. It was his fate because of the circumstances prevailing in Egypt at the time, i.e. hot clashes under and above the surface between ideas of openness versus self-enclosure between the tugs of war and the drums of peace. It was a time when all notions and hypotheses coexisted, while Egypt was being pulled by forces of the extreme right in the face of forces from the extreme left, with many realities ignored and many axioms lost in their maze of their crossfire. Then came Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid to hold the reins of the Egyptian economy at a time when talk of ideology took precedence over talk of bread. The language of what was ideologically lawful or unlawful was prevalent in any dialogue or controversy. It was as if ideas were created to express themselves and ideology an idol whose permission and blessings were needed before any thinking was made. Then Abdel Razzak came to speak the language of reality, the language of needs and requirements. It was a language which expressed the needs of human beings and the State, both at present and in the future as well as their requirements in the form of laws, legislation and procedures which had to be speedily adopted to meet them. Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid, with unusual skill, transcended the gap to the ideology of the time and surged forward with the people taking them from lofty ideas to collisions and upheavals for bread, food, clothing and housing. He thus drove everyone to confrontations of a new kind which spoke of investment, development, progress and the advantages of production in addition to adopting modern and up-to-date concepts of taxation and exemption linked to manpower employment. These new concepts were to stimulate wider economic activity with the profits of projects being re-pumped into expanded and new ones. Unlike those, and they were many, who excelled in the craft of frustration, Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid opted for the pursuit of a craft in which only a few excelled, namely the "craft of hope." As he realized, with deep insight, the self-evident realities of the world of economy which may have been concealed to many, no matter how advanced their academic knowledge. To him, the economic problem, hinged in its major aspects, complexities and intricacies on "people's expectations." The desperate and frustrated expectations in both the present and the future thus became a mighty rock at the foot of which all attempts at reform were smashed, regardless of how well-knit and economically fool-proof these attempts were and regardless of how valid ideological legal opinions were and how well-shaped the new economic identity. Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid understood that the key to the future and its magic code were linked to the instilling of hope and ambition as a means of rejuvenating the Egyptian economy and remedying its faltering condition. This was designed to help the economy surge beyond the traditional concepts imposed by war and the 1967 setback, concepts according to which no voice should use higher than that of the battle. This implied gearing all the energies of the society, man, and the economy as well as government bodies to serve the objectives of liberation and victory. This was an undisputed necessity in order to realize victory and restore national dignity, an objective which was achieved in October 1973 on the battlefield in Sinai and was expected to extend to the whole of Egyptian land. This was intended to be a means to confront challenges both present and future. Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid, unlike many of his peers, who had studied and lived many years in the Western world, had learned a lesson. He was confident that the economy could not be tackled through the rigid language of economists, which was only suited for lecture rooms and closed specialized seminars. He also learned that the economy should be talked about using people's language in dealing with the problems of their daily lives, thus becoming their primary concern. In this manner, the wheel of reform would be linked to their ambitions and positive expectations. He thus attempted to lay down a modern concept of development with man at it's core, on the grounds that man constitutes the mainstay and focus of development, its maker as well at it's primary and ultimate beneficiary. Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid therefore concentrated on the language of popular economic dialogue, a language whereby the economy would become an integral part of the citizen's thinking about his daily life in quest for serious and positive participation. He thus would share in bringing about reform, contributing to it rather than hampering it. Within the context of focusing on realities on the ground, he put forward a plan for substantial increase in wages and salaries which some viewed with derision and scoffing and others as mere speculation and propaganda. But time eventually proved the depth and validity of his outlook i.e. allowing for a wider gap between wages and prices was the main cause of the imbalances, evils and ills which had been compounded so as to become an impediment which could neither be denied nor minimized. In short, it constituted a stumbling block in the face of reform efforts, regardless of how genuine or scientific, inevitable, and necessary these efforts were. Another quality which many must have discovered in Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid, when given the chance for objective and straight forward reasoning, was that he was the man primarily responsible for amending most of the economic legislation and for issuing decisions which gave an impetus to private investment in Egypt. This was an approach which also laid down the groundwork for the liberalization of the business sector with the banks at the forefront and the eventual liberalization and modernization of their transactions. He likewise eliminated many of the constraints that inhibited the participation of the private sector and individuals in economic activity. More importantly, was the the fact that he put the preliminary touches to the modernization of the public sector and the revamping of its plants so that it would keep abreast with up-to-date technology. This was so, particularly following the many years of stagnation imposed by war, which rendered it out of step with the age and its technological progress. Another asset, which Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid had, was that his high hopes and excessive ambition did not make him overlook reality and its complex problems. His hopes and ambitions were therefore linked to a comprehensive program of rehabilitation of the Egyptian economy. This was accompanied by a keen awareness of the fact that the path was arduous and fraught with difficulties and that the heavens did not rain either gold or sliver, despite his many talks about the influx of funds, gold and silver. These talks were nevertheless geared with great knowledge and expertise to the creation of a climate of confidence in the Egyptian economy while instilling positive expectations in investors, workers and citizens vis-a-vis the future. This approach at all times backed by a reliable achievement and the tangible improvements as well as an undeniable step forward and a bold stride for the better. This went side by side with the elimination of obstacles and impediments, which had immediate and positive consequences. Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid will always be credited his art of public rhetoric, which created a temporary reconciliation between the language of the economy and the language of the people. He will also be remembered for his keen awareness of the dangers inherent in the negative expectations and the importance of replacing them with positive ones. This was bound to bring about a successful and viable reform with the rational distribution of the the benefits and losses of development. He will also be remembered for having left a clear-cut imprint on Egypt's economic identity, which spurred it to abide by practicality and realism while adopting a phase-out approach, reflecting electric shocks and bloodletting surgical operations. This was so despite the boldness, courage, innovation and creativity of his thinking. As a matter of fact, he was determined to steer the ship of the Egyptian economy against the mighty waves of ignorance, backwardness, bigotry and shallowness. He was a flicker of hope and ambition amidst a tremulous storm in which sparks of light were lost, awaiting better times to be understood and remembered what was and is now gone.
Dr. Abdel Razzak Abdel Meguid
Deputy Prime Minister,
Minister of Economy, Minister of Planning, Minister of Finance
and Minister of Investment
A Man who was Totally Dedicated to his Beloved Egypt!
1931 - 1994