Egypt Is Not the Region's Bright Spot and This Is No Laughing Matter

"It's good life. Dignity and social justice. All people from all social classes go to the same schools, the same parks, the same hospitals. Equality. You feel that your humanity is respected," a friend told me during a Viber call in July.

Trying to explain herself further she added, "Imagine all what we dreamed of for Egypt during the [2011] revolution's heyday? It's all here in Canada." She paused for a split second and I could picture a sad impression being drawn on her face.

In the past three years, it has become common for Egyptians to hear stories of those who left Egypt -- a friend, a friend of a friend, a cousin, a neighbor, an acquaintance, a well-known activist, a public figure -- all packed their things and dreams they cherished for Egypt in the wake of the revolution, and off then went. To Canada, to the US, to Australia, to Europe, to the Arab Gulf, to Turkey -- and elsewhere.

Some - whether among the regime's avid supporters or outside, non-Egyptian observers - used to downplay this phenomenon, or deny that there is a phenomenon in the first place, arguing that the "I want to immigrate" fever exists only among middle class and elitist segments who have ambitions about an "even better" quality of life.

Those doubts have been recently refuted when an Italy-bound migrant boat capsized off Egypt's northern coast, causing more than 200 Egyptians to drown. September's incident presented no new information - just a reminder of the existing reality about Egypt not really being the region's bright spot compared to Iraq, Libya or Syria.

It requires no sophisticated political analysis to realize that the situation in Egypt is sliding downhill at the economic, bureaucratic and political levels -- and subsequently at the social level.

Economically, there is the tumbling Egyptian currency and the government's persistent failure to narrow the gap between the pound's official exchange rate against the dollar and the black market. Inflation has reached its highest rate in seven years. Low income Egyptians are complaining about price hikes, including of essential goods.

These are not just like economic problems that countries around the world face. The context is different in Egypt where the state is already unable to provide services as basic as education in public schools or foster facilities for tens of thousands of street children -- to name just two obvious examples -- leaving citizens in effect on their own.

These short-term crises are coupled with the structural problem of the army's dominant role in the economy, which casts a dark shadow on Egypt's overall economic future. "The military -- traditionally a powerful actor in the economy -- has over the past year announced a string of new ventures in which it either secured contracts with the government or which it planned to launch itself," according a Financial Times article by Heba Saleh.

The 2014 constitution protects the army and its budget against parliamentary accountability - an absence of transparency that leaves a door open for possible corruption in a country already ranking 88th on Transparency International's global Corruption Perceptions Index. This also threatens fair economic competition in the market, with the majority of private sector companies unlikely to have the influence and political power that the state army enjoys.

This takes us to the worsening political aspect -- an "unprecedented crackdown" on civil society, "hundreds" of enforced disappearance and torture cases, according to Amnesty International; a protest law that effectively bans protests; soaring numbers of political detentions and death sentences; and a "rash" of deaths in custody - with prisons described in a Human Rights Watch report as "tombs."

The argument that human rights violations and political suppression in Egypt could be tolerated by the international community as long as the state is fighting ISIS and militant groups no longer holds - not just because the military and police are unable to keep full control on the Sinai or stop ISIS's operations there, but also because you cannot deprive a people of everything at the same time and expect stability to be sustained.

There are regimes that try to survive through providing some level of economic prosperity and public services even if in the absence of political freedom. But the Egyptian regime is not even doing this.

Does this mean that another uprising will erupt? This might be the wrong question because the state apparatuses and its seven million-strong civil service body are so inefficient that they might keep decaying on their own without the interference of an uprising.

Many can watch this decay deepen and darkness draw near, and are thus trying to leave. For some, staying means growing fear and uncertainty. One warning came from an Egyptian woman whose furious video went viral on social media: "How can people sustain themselves? The elite have been draining us for 50 years. Today, we are on the very of stealing from each other. Each one wants to stick their hand in others' pockets," warns the woman in the red headscarf.

She brings us full circle to my friend's shattered dreams of 2011, a year during which she and others were still willing to make sacrifices to see their dreams come true in Egypt. "Youth died, there are people who became disabled and people who lost their eyesight ... and people who are languishing in jail without charges -- for others to become billionaires besides the billions they already have."