Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1397, (7 - 20 June 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1397, (7 - 20 June 2018)

Ahram Weekly

‘Best days are ahead’

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi promises that the best days are ahead, while MPs express concern about the impact of new subsidy cuts, reports Gamal Essam El-Din


#Al-Sisi taking the oath of office # Al-Sisi taking the oath of office
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The cabinet submitted its resignation on Tuesday to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi after he was sworn in for a second term on Saturday. The new cabinet is expected to be formed within a few days.

After taking the oath of office, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi delivered a 15-minute televised speech before parliament.

Al-Sisi said his agenda for the next four years will focus on creating common ground and achieving real political development.

“I will remain a president for all Egyptians, those who accept me and those who oppose me,” said Al-Sisi. “Egypt is for all… and I will try my best to create a consensus among us to achieve social peace and real political development… I promise that no one will be excluded except those who have chosen the path of terrorism, violence, and extremism to impose their will.”

Just as his first term had focused on confronting terrorism and facing the heavy legacy of economic, social and political challenges, his second term will be devoted to pushing a reformist agenda, said the president. “Education, health and culture will top my agenda in the coming stage, and the implementation of national mega-development projects which began in my first term will continue at a faster pace in the second.”

“The best days of our nation are ahead of us as long as intentions are sincere and hearts are honest,” said Al-Sisi. He vowed to spare no efforts or brook delays, adding that he did not fear any challenge.

A day after the speech parliament’s General Committee, led by Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal, met to review it. The committee said it hoped the government of Prime Minister Sherif Ismail will be able to turn Al-Sisi’s promises into reality.

It is no secret a majority of MPs are highly critical of the government. Commenting on the 2018/19 budget this week many MPs warned against raising fuel, power and water tariffs.

Tagammu MP Abdel-Hamid Kamal pointed to the Jordanian government’s recent attempt to raise fuel prices and impose new taxes which led to massive street protests. “The prime minister of Jordan was forced to resign in a bid to contain anger,” he said. “I hope that our own government will learn a lesson from the Jordanian experience and not make the same mistake.”

The ministers of finance and social solidarity assured MPs plans to reduce the budget deficit and increase state revenues will not come at the expense of society’s poorest.

“We will raise the tax exemption ceiling for state employees at a cost of LE9 billion in lost revenues,” said Minister of Finance Amr Al-Garhi. “In addition, the annual bonuses of employees will be increased by 15 per cent in July.”

On Sunday parliament’s Labour Committee approved a draft law increasing annual bonuses for state employees and public servants. The first of the draft law’s four articles stipulates a 15 per cent increase in pensions for state employees and army personnel payable from 30 June and an increase of the minimum pension to LE750 per month. The second article stipulates that state employees who fall under the Civil Service Law of 2016 will receive a seven percent increase in their basic salaries and an additional one off rise of 10 per cent of their basic salary.

The third article stipulates that state employees from rank four to rank one in seniority receive an extra irregular pay rise of between LE140-160 to their basic salary. The fourth article gives workers and employees in the state’s business and financial sectors a 10 per cent pay rise.

Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Wali told MPs “the government is working to increase pensions by 15 per cent.”

The increase, costing LE23.5 billion, in budgetary allocations will be funded by the treasury and “nine million citizens will benefit,” said Wali.

Asked whether power prices will be increased, Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker told MPs “I get nervous whenever someone asks me this question.

“My answer is that the sea is behind us and the enemy is in front of us, which means that we have no choice.”

A report prepared by parliament’s Budget and Planning Committee concluded subsidies allocated to the electricity sector will fall by 46.7 per cent, from LE30 billion in 2017/18 to LE16 billion in 2018/19.

On Saturday Prime Minister Sherif Ismail signed a decree raising the price of piped drinking water by up to 46.5 per cent. Reuters, citing the official gazette, said it will be the second rise in less than a year. Saturday’s decision also included a 12 per cent increase in fees for sewage services.

The decision comes after last month’s increase in metro fares triggered public anger and a backlash from MPs.

MP Kamal warned that increasing fuel prices was risky. “A rise in the cost of fuel leads to increased food and transport prices which hit the poorest hardest,” he said.

The Budget and Planning Committee report said subsidies allocated to fuel products will be cut from LE110 billion in 2017/18 to LE89 billion in 2018/19. Minister of Petroleum Tarek Al-Molla told MPs that “fuel subsidies will be gradually phased out in order to rationalise consumption and decrease state expenditures.”

Ayman Abul-Ela, spokesperson of the Free Egyptians Party, said the IMF-inspired measures have seriously affected “average-income classes”.

“Poor and limited income citizens receive protection programmes which help cushion the effects of the IMF’s harsh reform measures while average-income citizens, the middle classes, are left helpless.”

Abul-Ela warned further increases in fuel prices constitute “a big risk”.

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