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Season 5 - Episode 2
Fighting for freedom in Egypt

Mahmoud Farouk is an Egyptian Lawyer, and is the founder and former Executive Director of the Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies (ECPPS), an organization based in Cairo that advocates for individual and economic freedom reforms. The ECPPS won the 2018 Templeton Freedom Award for its “Better Budget for a Better Egypt” initiative to increase budget transparency and citizen inclusion in the budgeting process.

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Working in the field of ideas in Egypt is challenging, to say the least. For instance, it took Mahmoud Farouk’s organization over a year and a half, visiting the government every week, just to get the licence it needed to operate. Nor did the challenges stop there, with resistance coming from government and also from other groups opposed to liberalism and modernity.

But the Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies has worked hard to build trust with the government. “We don’t want to destroy anything,” says Mahmoud Farouk in this engaging interview. “We don’t want to overthrow anyone. We just want to reform. We want people to have a good life and good opportunities.”

One of the main problems in Egypt is the size of the informal sector, which takes up as much as 60% of the economy according to some estimates. Since many people lack title to their property, they also lack the path out of poverty that a bank loan backed by such property can represent. “The government should encourage people and make it easy for them to join the market and benefit from it, not push them away and keep them in poverty.”

In such difficult circumstances, the main goal is to keep the alternative of a free society alive and available, says Farouk, evoking the words of the late Milton Friedman. The ultimate goals of his organization are ideals like freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and free markets. The day-to-day mission is simply to do what is possible.

Links of interest

2018 Templeton Freedom Award | Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies

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