Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1401, (12 - 18 July 2018)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1401, (12 - 18 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Confidence, with reservations

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli will face a vote of confidence in parliament next week, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

 

 Madbouli presenting the new government’s policy statement to MPs on 3 July  (photo: Khaled Mashaal)
Madbouli presenting the new government’s policy statement to MPs on 3 July (photo: Khaled Mashaal)

MPs will discuss the policy statement of newly appointed Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli in plenary sessions next week ahead of the vote of confidence in the new government.

First Deputy Speaker Al-Sayed Al-Sherif, head of the ad hoc committee in charge of preparing a report on the policy statement, told reporters on Monday most MPs welcomed the statement, particularly its commitment to implementing social protection programmes to help the poor weather the effect of economic reforms and austerity measures.

Al-Sherif added, however, that the committee was concerned that few details were provided about the cost or implementation of the promised social programmes.

“The statement assured in general terms that the government seeks to safeguard the poor against economic reform but it did not give details about how and when this will be achieved,” said Al-Sherif.

Concerns were sufficiently high that Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Omar Marawan was summoned to parliament on Tuesday to answer MPs’ questions on the statement and respond to their reservations.

“A final meeting to draft the final report on the statement is set for 11 July. The report will then be passed to Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal and MPs will cast their votes,” said Al-Sherif.

Madbouli was sworn in as prime minister on 14 June. He presented the new government’s policy statement on 3 July, telling MPs the newly appointed cabinet would complete the job of its predecessor in implementing the three-year IMF-supported economic reform programme.

“The government aims to strengthen national security, implement intensive social protection programmes, boost economic development, raise productivity and improve the standard of living of poorer citizens,” said Madbouli.

He told MPs 85 per cent of the economic reform programme had already been implemented and that the coming stage will see the country begin “to reap the fruits of reform”.

Al-Sherif cautioned that Madbouli’s statement implied a need for new legislation that “the government must submit to parliament as soon as possible.”

Opposition and independent MPs have been joined by members of the pro-regime Support Egypt bloc in demanding Madbouli vow before parliament next week that his government is committed to implementing social protection programmes, said Al-Sherif.

“They want the prime minister to clearly state the next stage of economic reforms will not affect poor citizens. It is on this commitment that they will decide which way to vote on the confidence motion.”

“Prime Minister Madbouli promised that citizens will reap the fruits of reform in the coming stage amd MPs want to know the details about how and when this will happen,” said Al-Sherif.

Parliament’s 25 committees held meetings throughout the week to discuss Madbouli’s statement.

The Defence and National Security Committee approved the government’s efforts in fighting terrorism.

“It is clear the government has a successful strategy for obliterating terrorism in North Sinai which is being applied without compromising human rights,” says committee head Kamal Amer. “We recommend Comprehensive Operation Sinai 2018 continues until the peninsula is rid of all terrorists affiliated with Islamic State [IS].”

Amer said helping neighbouring countries like Libya fight terrorist groups was a commendable strategy.

“Preventing countries like Libya from becoming breeding grounds for militant jihadists is important to Egypt’s national security,” said Amer. “We must continue with policies that prevent IS-linked groups using Libya and Gaza to infiltrate Egypt’s borders.”

The Budget and Planning Committee said the policy statement lacked clarity when it came to tax policy.

The committee’s deputy chair Yasser Omar said “the government has not taken enough steps to boost tax revenues or tackle tax evasion.”

The Health and Environment Committee said Madbouli should commit his government to ensuring the health budget increases to three per cent of GDP, as required by the constitution.

The Education Committee welcomed the government’s long-term aim to increase the salaries of teachers in state schools. Mohamed Omar, deputy minister of education, told the committee on Monday that LE4 billion will be earmarked in 2018/2019 to raise salaries.

Meeting on Monday, the Industry Committee said the government had yet to spell out how it intends to boost production or increase the competitive edge of Egyptian products on world markets. Committee head Ahmed Samir told reporters that the policy statement also failed to spell out clear plans to rationalise the energy sector, provide relief for debt ridden factories, or address the complex problems posed by industrial quality control.

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