Al-Ahram Weekly Online   25 October - 31 November 2012
Issue No. 1120
Economy
 
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Raising the bar

The government has set some ambitious targets for the year ahead and the decade to come

The government said this week that it is targeting four per cent growth this year as well as an increase in investment to $8 billion, compared to around $2 billion in 2011/12. It has also listed a number of priorities, including re-instating law and order and security on the streets, and payment of some LE2 billion in late dues to contracting companies to revive construction and investment across the country.

For the longer term, the Cabinet reviewed a 10-year development plan covering the years 2012-2022. It set a target growth rate of no less than five per cent during that period, and aims to encourage small and micro enterprises, increase investment from 16 per cent to 32 per cent and also to increase Egypt's exports of goods by at least 20 per cent annually.

Prepared by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the plan lists the main challenges facing Egypt's development. These include: unemployment, poverty, inflation, food security and the concentration of the population on only six per cent of the country's total area.

The plan focuses on improving living standards for low income individuals, fighting unemployment, expanding the social security pension to cover three million families, lowering illiteracy to 25 per cent, as well as directing more funds to scientific research and developing educational curricula.

But economist Doha Abdelhamid is sceptical. "What would make this any more successful than the 100-day targets?" she questioned, adding that concrete steps need to be taken to show how these targets will be achieved. "It is not enough to put bullet points. Where are the tools and who is to be held accountable?"

Although this is the first time that the government has a 10-year rather than a five-year plan, as was the case for the past 30 years, Abdelhamid believes that this is only to buy time if the government fails to log any achievements in the first five years. The 10-year plan is also targeting the addition of five more governorates to the existing 27, and the division of the country into 10 regions rather than seven. This effort is spearheaded by the Ministry of Housing and New Urban Communities.

The new regional divisions aim at bringing together governorates that can be complementary to each other to boost competitiveness. But again, Abdelhamid has reservations. She questioned how these regions will be managed and with what resources. "Who will manage these new governorates? Will it be Freedom and Justice Party loyalists that enable them to gain more power at the grassroots level, or will the new governors be elected from among the people and will come with real programmes for development?" She added: "What is important is development, not how many regions the country has become divided into."

The move is designed to bolster development efforts by redrawing administrative boundaries. The new governorates include Alamein, Central Sinai, 10 Ramadan, 25 January governorate (including Helwan and Tora districts) and Wadi Al-Natroun.

The three new regions are Central Upper Egypt (Assiut, Sohag, Qena and the Red Sea), Alexandria (Dria and Wadi Al-Natroun) and the Sinai region.

In the 10-year plan, the Ministry of Housing has also included a national social housing programme. This programme entails the establishment of one million units to accommodate 4.5 million low-income individuals. The ministry also plans to make available 250,000 pieces of land for family housing to cover the needs of middle-income individuals. As for higher income individuals, 50,000 lots will be auctioned out.

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