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TheStreet Open House

Egypt - An Unpopular Point of View

The following guest commentary about the restive situation in Egypt was written by Tarek Ragheb, an Egyptian-American, senior U.S. aerospace executive, former U.S. military officer and investor in Egypt.

WASHINGTON -- Egyptians have a golden opportunity to get the basics right! Without the basics in place, perhaps change is not the most prudent move Egyptians can make at this time.

Egypt today faces a fork in the road. As an Egyptian raised in the U.S., I am very familiar with what it takes to have a democratic free country, and certainly I have a great appreciation for the value of such a system. So I'm all for democracy, but Egypt needs to get the basics in place first and foremost.

I owe nothing to the current Mubarak regime. Everything I have is due to hard work and what my U.S. upbringing contributed to who I am today. As such, I am by no means a mouthpiece for the current Egyptian government.

What is going on in Egypt today, while it has the potential for a long-term positive outcome, has much more serious short-term disastrous consequences, and the Egyptian people need to be very prudent in their actions. Egypt's stock market lost 12 billion Egyptian pounds ($2 billion) in one day. No true Egyptian patriot can take solace in that.

The educated, well-versed and well-traveled Egyptians need to take a leadership position. Not out in the street but more in staying in the country calmly and helping guide the nation through this crisis.

First and foremost, Egyptians need to realize that they cannot throw the baby out with the bath water.

To be very frank, Mubarak has been one of the best things that happened to Egypt since the disastrous 1952 military coup. That's not to say he does not have his shortcomings. Clearly the lack of transparency in the future stewardship of the nation is a huge shortcoming. No arguments here!

Mubarak took over a country torn by war, its economy devastated by a failed socialist experiment that set the country back for generations yet to come. It had no means to raise capital, no private market, hardly an infrastructure capable of dealing with the demand back then, much less future demand. And, yes, a government that WAS, repeat WAS, ripe with high-level official corruption.

To be very objective that is not the situation today. Egyptians on the streets tend to forget that under Mubarak, Egypt has seen unprecedented economic growth. You don't need to be an economist or a financial analyst to see the roads, the malls, the cars on the road and how the general appearance of the people contrasted with even 15 years ago. Not to mention what you can't see in a billion dollar sewage system and the only underground Metro transit system in Africa. By no means, I am not denying that poverty exists today.

If the mobilized demonstrators in the streets, regardless of how educated or not they may be, are demanding the ouster of the current regime, it's the duty of the well-educated and reasonable men and women to stand up and say NO! That surely will lead to the collapse of everything Egypt has in place. Cooler heads must prevail! Destruction is easy. Rebuilding takes decades.

Democracy needs basics to flourish. The most basic element on which a democratic system can grow is secular institutions and the first step to build these institutions is a secular constitution. Two key ingredients that are absent today. Egyptians must not demand change for the sake of change. If change is to come Egyptians must get the basics right.

This is a chance that will not come again to put in place what is really needed. A secular constitution! The very corner stone on which to build a new democracy for generations to come. That is what Egypt needs today. That is the most fundamental basic tenant for a democracy and, make no mistake, without which Egypt will end up a theocracy.

The current regime, whose positives far outnumber its negatives, is most likely the shortest and most secure route to that end. Use it, don't tear it.

Not the popular view but going with the crowd frenzy is a danger Egypt must avoid and cannot afford!

About the Author:

Tarek Ragheb is an Egyptian American. A senior U.S. aerospace executive and an investor in Egypt with several startup companies in manufacturing, IT services and travel retailing. A politically active U.S. Republican serving as an executive member of the board of the Republicans Abroad, Director of Communication for the Republicans Abroad and a former U.S. Military Officer and U.S. Diplomat.

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