Shelter policies : the state, foreign aid and economic reform; the case of Egypt.
The thesis examines policy making, especially in the shelter sector, from a different perspective:
the impact of the macro-level political economy on the micro-level intervention. To establish this
relationship more precisely, a conceptual framework which explores the effects of the role and
nature of the state, foreign aid (USAID), and economic reform (IMF/World Bank) is utilised.
This framework is deployed to investigate the interaction between these three key elements and
how they affected shifts and changes in shelter policies in Egypt from the 1950s.
By 1952 the government assumed a more central role in service provision with its socialist
orientation. On the macro-political level, dramaticc hanges have taken place since then, but, in
effect were not mirrored with adequatere form on the structural or organisational levels, with
regards to tackling the shelter needs of the country.
The core of the thesis explores, from the shelter sector perspective, the role of the state as an
interest mediator throughout different periods. This reveals that the shelter sector always formed
an important investment priority susceptible to both internal and external determinants. Internal
determinants are related to domestic priorities influenced by changes in the social structure, class
interests, and resource allocation. External determinants concern the role played by international
agencies in promoting development models in which the shelter sector plays an often uncertain
role, or direct political pressure as a part of geo-strategic concerns. The state's receptiveness and
ability to mediate is constrained by the extent to which external agendas fit or conflict with the
state's development ideology, perceptions of equity, social justice and stability. Using an
inductive approach, the empirical evidence is drawn from interviews with key figures in policy
making as well as independent observers.
The thesis argues that in order to provide a refined understanding to the housing question it has to
be put in its broader socio-economic and political context. Outcomes have generally been
technocratic solutions to a problem that is largely structural in nature. The gap between the
political and technocratic levels of policy making and implementation is a central theme in the
study. The distinctive responses to the shelter question, from both levels, over four decades in
Egypt, and under a highly complex and rapidly changing political environment are reflected in the
Perceptions, priorities and criteria driving decision making of key actors, and the state's central
role in mediating between external and internal interests, as well as its own, were the main themes
deployed in the investigation.
The findings suggest that policy making is an outcome of the interaction among the needs of the
state (especially the autocratic tendencies of the leadership, and the technocrats) and external
forces which determine policies according to a different agenda (geo-political): outcomes,
therefore, may not be generated by a conscious policy making process, but rather, directly, from
political impact. The study also suggests that structural changes in development paradigms do not
appear to be the main determinant of policy shifts. A combination of short-term and specific
international objectives and national interests of the state appear to be more instrumental in policy
shifts and modifications in approaches.