CAIRO: The controversy surrounding the new administrative divisions of Egypt’s governorates and the creation of two new governorates has sparked heated debate in parliament.
The presidential decree of April 17, which paves the way for the creation of two new governorates – Sixth of October and Helwan – has produced a somewhat negative response within the legislature, even within the ranks of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP).
Critics said the decree was based on insufficient research, planning and preparation.
“It was a hasty decision, but they saved the situation somehow when they amended it just 48 hours later, Saad El Gammal, an MP and NDP member told Al Dostour newspaper.
As a result of parliamentary protests, the General Secretariat held an emergency meeting on Saturday April 19, two days after the decree was first issued, in order to reset the borders of the governorates of Giza, Fayoum, Sixth of October and Helwan.
Amended or otherwise, the decree still got the backing of several NDP MPs, among them Mohamed Khalil Kwaitah. “It was the right decision, Cairo was becoming too big for one governor to handle, he said.
Opposition MPs, however, had much more to say on the issue.
“This is another random decision made by the government without even presenting it to the representatives of the people, said Azab Mostafa Morsi, member of the Muslim Brotherhood and an MP for Giza.
Morsi was upset that neither the parliament nor the local councils were consulted in the build-up to the decree, especially considering the fact that some MPs had their constituencies divided among a number of governorates.
The issuance of the decree also raised a number of issues regarding transport, and it was the main concern of citizens around the country. “The people went to bed belonging to one governorate and woke up to find they now belong to another governorate faraway, said Morsi.
Under the new arrangements, the new headquarters of Helwan governorate would be located in the Fifth District, which residents say is difficult to travel to without a car. Travel there would be particularly difficult for more distant districts, such as El Ayat and Atfeeh, which now belong to Helwan governorate.
Many members of the parliament were furious at this proposal, saying that most Helwan residents do not own a car, and so will find it next to impossible to carry out administrative tasks.
“If this happens, a revolution will break out in Helwan, exclaimed controversial opposition MP, Mostafa Bakry to Al Dostour.
In his meeting with the new governors after they took the oath at the Presidential Palace on Sunday April 20, President Mubarak explained that the decision to create new administrative borders and two new governorates was taken in order to divide Greater Cairo, which used to be Cairo, Giza and Qalioubeya, and to pave new paths for industrial and agricultural development.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif commented, “The creation of new administrative borders and the creation of two new governorates is a means by which to cope with the rise in population and urban expansion, and is part of our plan to overcome squatter settlements and create new employment opportunities for youth.
Although the new governors have taken their oath, the new governorates have been created and other governments had their administrative borders reset, MPs are still divided on the consequences of the changes.
“Its all for the welfare of the people. Now the people will have better services available for them, said the NDP s Kwaitah.
But Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood is less sanguine: “I think this is juwwwst another way to distract people’s attention from rising prices. Also, it’s another way for them to have more police control in these areas.