Egypt’s economic crisis: An opportunity for national reconciliation?

Thursday 28 April 202212:23 pm

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi stated that Egypt faced great challenges over the last few years, however, it achieved greater successes. El Sisi’s statements came at the Egyptian Family Iftar banquet on Tuesday, an annual ritual since 2017 with the participation of all segments of society.

El Sisi declared that Egypt lost about USD 37 billion in the two years following the Egyptian revolution in 2011, noting that the army spent EGP one billion monthly for seven years to eradicate terrorism. He continued, ''Egypt's credit rating declined six times from 2011 to 2013''. El Sisi admitted that the Arab countries supported Egypt in 2013 and afterwards, helping preserve the Egyptian State, and affirmed that they provided Egypt with tens of billions of dollars to support the country's economy. ''Egypt ran out of foreign currency reserves in a period fraught with crises that no president would have been able to overcome'', he said. El Sisi praised the Egyptians who have borne the consequences of implementing the firm program for economic reform.

El Sisi spoke about the current economic crisis in the country, issuing a set of economy-related directives, among which was directing the government to announce a plan to reduce public debt, along with preparing an integrated vision for stimulating the stock exchange. He also directed the government to public list companies owned by the armed forces before the end of the year. He asked the government to hold an international press conference to declare Egypt’s plan to deal with the crisis and launched an initiative to support national industries by strengthening the role of the private sector in expanding the industrial base of large and medium industries, and directed the ministries to continue providing all basic commodities to citizens.

 All these directives are not new. I, among others, talked about these procedures several times before. I warned in one of my previous articles Egyptian military’s involvement in the economy and I asked for an urgent support to the industry sector.

Meanwhile, the Planning and Budget Committee at the Egyptian Parliament expressed remarks on the national fiscal budget, the most prominent of which were incidents related to the Upper Egypt Development Program and the existence of two budgets for some ministries.

A World Bank $500 million loan to develop Upper Egypt wasn’t even disbursed as planned, save for $5 million, spent on salaries and luxury cars for officials. Will Sisi finally reign the military and administration in favour of the people?

The Committee commented on one of the loans signed between the government and the World Bank, amounting to USD 500 million in August 2019 for the development of Upper Egypt, especially Qena and Sohag. The loan was scheduled to be disbursed to Egypt in instalments until 2021. Only the first instalment, USD 5 million, was disbursed last June 30. The first instalment was totally spent in salaries and purchasing luxury cars for officials in the two governorates. Before blaming the revolution for the foreign currency reserves losses, perhaps El Sisi should discuss the corruption and the wasted money by the regime's officials.  

El Sisi also assigned the National Youth Conference to conduct political dialogue with all parties and political powers on the current priorities of national action and to present its outcomes to him personally. The National Training Academy announced its adoption of his directives right after this statement. The Academy decided as well to hold a number of meetings between all parties of different political views and youth forces within a national dialogue aimed at developing a national agenda to deal with pressing issues. El Sisi decided to reactivate the Presidential Pardon Committee, this committee was established in October 2016 to review the cases of those imprisoned for political crimes and others who meet certain conditions, such as families who have more than one relative in jail.

El Sisi reactivated the Presidential Pardon Committee, established in 2016 to review the cases of political prisoners and others who meet certain conditions, such as families who have more than one relative in jail

In the last few days, the public prosecution released several pre-trial prisoners. El Sisi expressed his approval of these steps, noting that Egypt as a homeland is for all Egyptians. This statement came a few weeks after discovering that economic researcher Ayman Hadhoud had died in custody at a psychiatric hospital in March after he was reportedly forcibly disappeared in early February.

Ayman's family suspect that Ayman was killed. The mysterious death of Ayman in the custody of security forces strongly questions the previous statement. Violence perpetrated by the Egyptian regime threatens to unravel the very fabric of Egyptian society.

It was surprising that El Sisi decided to defend himself and said that he did not plot a conspiracy against Former President Morsi. He said if that happened, it means that it was a conspiracy against Egypt. It was also notable that when he talked about the late President Morsi, he followed his name with ''May he rest in peace''. There was a different tone in Tuesday’s speech. This current crisis might teach us to understand that nothing could work unless we all decide to work together. The real question that we all have to answer the next few weeks is whether Egyptian society, including the regime, wants national reconciliation. There is no way to impose reconciliation and no one mean to accomplish it, having said that,  national reconciliation is the only gateway for building our country.

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