By Enid Hill
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Additional info for Discourses in Contemporary Egypt: Politics and Social Issues
To use current development jargon, one cannot think of an act in recent Egyptian history that was more 'empowering' to the poor than Agrarian Reform. Even without debating the political choice and economic rationale behind the legislation that has now abolished Land Reform, there were obvious shortcomings in the mode and spirit in which the law was issued and implemented. It is true that the tenancy arrangements that existed before the law were defective in many ways, and the situation may have been especially harsh on poor landowners who rented out their land.
The fieldwork was the main source for eliciting the evicted tenants' views, perceptions, and opinions. Those who have been following the various stages of issuing the law in 1992 and the subsequent events up to its full implementation in 1997, must have been struck by the virtual absence of the tenants' voice. At no point were tenants consulted. Their opinion was never considered nor were they given any real chance to express their complaints and grievances. In fact, quite the opposite was the case.
It is true that the tenancy arrangements that existed before the law were defective in many ways, and the situation may have been especially harsh on poor landowners who rented out their land. However, this law should have been more carefully studied. Most important, there should have been a more serious attempt to provide the evicted tenants with alternative land or employment. The government showed no willingness to confront the extent of the problem, nor did it seek ways of dealing with it realistically.