Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1328, (19 - 25 January 2017)
Wednesday,19 June, 2019
Issue 1328, (19 - 25 January 2017)

Ahram Weekly

‘Fruits of development’

Reem Leila reports on President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s interview with the editors-in-chief of national newspapers

Al-Sisi during his interview with the editors-in-chief of national newspapers
Al-Sisi during his interview with the editors-in-chief of national newspapers

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi gave the editors-in-chief of national Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar, and Al-Gomhouriya a lengthy interview, published on two consecutive days this week.

Al-Sisi spoke about a forthcoming ministerial reshuffle, the role of the Armed Forces in supporting the economy and in facing terrorism in addition to other topics of public concern.

The president said a cabinet reshuffle should be expected soon though Prime Minister Ismail Sherif will remain in his post. “We need to correct mistakes of the past in order to continue on the right path. This change is essential as we pursue the national welfare,” said Al-Sisi.

Al-Sisi referred in his interview to recent economic measures adopted by the government, including the floatation of the Egyptian pound.

“If the government had continued with the old economic policies for any longer it would have resulted in a situation much more difficult than it is today,” said the president. International economic experts are well aware that measures adopted by the government are the only feasible road to a stronger and more stable economy, he added.

“The dollar is over valued at the moment. A fairer exchange rate will emerge in about six months, when the market stabilises. I just want people to be patient for six months,” he said, after which the stabilisation of the dollar price will positively affect commodities.

“I want to create new market mechanisms that are not profit-seeking to pump products and commodities on the market at affordable prices. These mechanisms will alleviate sufferings of ordinary citizens,” said Al-Sisi. “I will not leave the people prey to merchants’ greed.”

In an attempt to lessen the financial burden imposed on people and to protect them from traders the government intends to import 200,000 head of cattle in the next 18 months to further develop the meat as well as dairy industry, said Al-Sisi.

He also revealed plans to have an additional 30,000 greenhouses in place by June, and 100,000 by May 2018. “The production of each greenhouse will be the equivalent of 10 feddans,” said the president.

“The private sector is welcome to participate in such projects and to jointly invest with the government, especially in livestock production and green houses.”

“We support businessmen. Egypt is a state based on laws that respect investors and protect their funds. Any investor who has a problem should approach the concerned authority. If it fails to settle the problem I am willing to personally receive investors”, added Al-Sisi.

The president also addressed the problem of high prices for medicine and the scarcity of some drugs.

“We are currently building a factory for manufacturing medicines which will soon start production. The factory will produce medicine for chronic diseases, including insulin, that until now have been imported,” he said.

Within six months the first factory to produce baby formula will begin production. “Soon mothers and infants will easily find this crucial product,” promised the president.

Al-Sisi also revealed the foundation stone of the New Administrative Capital will be laid within the next few weeks. “The project will create new job opportunities and encourage investors, thus guaranteeing the flow of dollars to the country’s economy,” he said.

Al-Sisi explained that some economic projects are being undertaken by the army so as not to burden the state’s general budge. Among these is a cement factory which will start by producing four million tons of cement by the end of 2017, gradually increasing to 20 million tonnes a year. There are also fisheries, three of them the largest in the region.

“The army has built-up its economic capabilities over many years. For the last three and half years no money from the country’s general budget has been used to buy weapons,” said Al-Sisi.

He discussed the construction of New Administrative Capital, revealing that he would be laying the foundation stone himself. Current megaprojects, including major roads and cities nationwide, will cost LE1040 billion, he said.

In the second part of the interview Al-Sisi said the country was engaged in a fierce war against terrorism. A militant insurgency, concentrated in parts of north Sinai, has killed hundreds of policemen and military personnel in the past few years. “I fear no one, I have a role and will fulfill it till the end,” said the president about the war on terror.

Regarding young detainees, Al-Sisi said a committee has been tasked with reviewing their cases and a second list of detainees will receive presidential pardons this week. Last November 82 prisoners, mainly university students jailed for illegally protesting, were freed.

Al-Sisi called on Egyptians to use family planning to help reduce population growth which poses a “huge burden” and does not allow people to feel the fruits of development. “From 2006 to 2016 Egypt’s population increased by 17.3 million, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS). Egypt’s current population has exceeded 91 million people,” said the president.

On foreign affairs, Al-Sisi expects to expand cooperation with the incoming US administration of Donald Trump. “There will be greater understanding and deeper cooperation with the administration of the US president, mainly in counter-terrorism efforts,” said Al-Sisi.

The president said during the interview that Egypt will participate in the Asetana Conference “if our participation helps to put an end to the sufferings of the Syrian people”.

“We are also exerting great efforts to preserve the unity of Libya, supporting its national army as well as respecting its people’s will.”

Al-Sisi told the editors-in-chief that the deal between Egypt and Russia over the construction of Al-Dabaa Nuclear Plant will soon be finalised.

Political analysts have praised the president’s keenness to regularly update the public about his government’s plans.

The president spoke about social justice and alleviating the burdens Egyptians shoulder as well as about providing job opportunities for the unemployed youths,” says Hafez Abu Saeda, head of the Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights (EOHR).

The interview, Abu-Saeda argues, will have a positive effect on public opinion at a time when people are facing high inflation and unemployment.

“The western media is focused on the development of political life in Egypt,” said Abu-Saeda, and Al-Sisi’s interview will have cleared up a number of misconceptions.

Aliya Al-Mahdi, professor of political science at Cairo University, believes that the president managed to underline his concern with political, economic and security stability. “The president is well aware of the importance of stability given Egypt is passing through a very critical phase,” she said.

According to Al-Mahdi the economic instability prevalent since the floatation of the Egyptian pound is normal.

“It was expected. It will take time for Egypt to regain economic stability. It is apparent that the president was keen on stressing the importance of stability for development.”

Laila Abdel-Meguid, professor of mass communication at Cairo University, said the discussion of national projects was clearly inspired by Al-Sisi’s belief he owed the public an explanation as to why so much was being spent on megaprojects.

 “Countries with slow growth rates often resort to such projects in order to accelerate growth. Our problem is that the increased demand is not matched by increased supply, resulting in a price surge,” said Abdel-Meguid.

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