Voices from the Arab Press: Boycott Egyptian money

Make no mistake: This is not a call to boycott our country’s financial system.

Alexandria, Egypt (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Alexandria, Egypt
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, March 22
Make no mistake: This is not a call to boycott our country’s financial system. Rather, it is a call to realize that the money we use – the bills and coins swapping hands around Egypt – is the ultimate vector for the transmission of bacteria. If the government is already considering battling the coronavirus epidemic using sweeping actions like curfews, why is it refusing to ignore the danger associated with using cash?
I say this frankly: Most of the bills in circulation are in poor condition. On average, a bill swaps hundreds of hands each day. Think of the merchant at the market, the attendant at the gas station and the cashier at the supermarket. If medical guidelines call on us to refrain from touching door knobs, elevator buttons and stairway handrails, why are they not prohibiting us from touching and dealing with cash?
It is my belief that the Egyptian government should ban the use of cash until further notice. We are clearly not in a position to disinfect every bill or coin before letting it exchange hands, so why should we put ourselves at unnecessary risk? Some governments have issued bills made of a special type of material that is resistant to bacteria. Until the Egyptian government chooses to do the same, we are best suited to avoid paper currency.
This is also a plea for the government to increase its enforcement of health and sanitation standards at food establishments. How exactly are we expecting to curb the spread of coronavirus when subsidized breads and fruits are displayed on sidewalks, available to touch and examine by every passerby? This might be our only way to succeed in reducing the transmission of viruses and protect our population. – Abbas Al-Tarabili
Al-Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 20
Most experts agree that the vast majority of jobs that will dominate the workforce in 2030 are still in their formative stage. That is, they will rely on technologies that are so new, we are still unable to fully predict what they will look like. Regardless, all experts agree that these jobs will be highly technological. Even a look at the way nations around the world are attempting to battle coronavirus reveals that without technology and technological innovation, most human advancement would be lost.
For the first time in history, the Saudi Education Ministry has implemented a system of virtual schooling, both synchronous and asynchronous. The ministry built a platform that enables virtual classes to be taught at various educational levels, regardless of one’s location. All Saudi universities can now conduct classes remotely and make use of technology to improve students’ internalization of material and test their performance. Experiments conducted on similar platforms elsewhere around the world reveal that they are highly effective in improving student outcomes.
The outbreak of coronavirus offers, for the first time, the opportunity for public- and private-sector employees to work remotely. The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development managed to build and launch a remote work platform ahead of the epidemic, allowing business owners to track their employees and follow up on job performance and compliance level. This enables business not only to stay in operation during quarantines, but also to reduce operating costs by up to 25%.
The pandemic should also push us to plan for the future. We must have contingency plans that offer temporary alternatives to humans and can operate in the event of widespread epidemics or natural disasters. These would be systems associated with huge databases, which could be analyzed and optimized to simulate the human mind and make critical, time-sensitive decisions.
The reality is that most countries have benefited from the coronavirus crisis from a technological standpoint. Whether reluctantly or not, governments around the world have been forced to develop virtual communication platforms to help patients stay connected with health providers and emergency responders. They have been pushed to make school available to students at home. They are forcing employers to reconcile employees’ requests to work from home. The daunting photos of European nations standing idly by as Italy implodes under the coronavirus burden is a stark reminder that nations can rely only on themselves.
Breakthroughs can be achieved only through self-sufficiency and investing in local talent and local industries, and through a state’s dependence on itself and its own potential. Global solidarity, unfortunately, is an empty slogan that collapsed as soon as the first coronavirus carrier was discovered outside the borders of China. – Badr Bin Saud
Al-Jazirah, Saudi Arabia, March 20
Despite being overshadowed by the state of emergency declared around the world to tackle the coronavirus epidemic, the Democratic nomination process for the US presidential election is reaching its final phase. Only two viable candidates are left in the race: former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The Democratic Party is still recovering from its defeat in the previous presidential election, when Hillary Clinton lost the race against Donald Trump. Back then, many in the party were hopeful that Clinton could win, not only because of her impressive credentials, but because she was a woman. If an African-American had been elected to office, they posited, there was no reason a woman would not be able to be.
Clinton’s odds were particularly promising given Trump’s complete lack of experience in policy-making. The problem with Clinton, however, was not her credentials; it was her relatability. She failed at resonating with the average voter, including women. She was unable to effectively communicate in a way that resonated with the masses. To the average American, she was a detached politician living in an ivory tower.
The reason I’m bringing this up is because, unfortunately, the current lead candidate for the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, is made from much of Clinton’s material. He is extremely experienced and well-credentialed. He knows the ins and outs of the American political system. Yet he is failing at galvanizing the masses and communicating a relatable message that sticks with the average American. Therefore, barring any drastic improvement, I suspect Biden will meet the same fate met by Hillary Clinton: putting up a fierce fight against Trump, but finishing the race just short of beating him in his bid for office. – Ahmad Al-Farraj
For more stories, go to themedialine.org.
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.