CAIRO: Head of Al-Ghad Party and presidential hopeful, Ayman Nour, made promises to improve the economic status of Egyptians if elected, in a symposium held at Sawy Cultural Wheel on Sunday.
Nour vowed to double government employees’ salaries within six months and increase the minimum wage to LE 1,200 within two years.
He proposed setting a maximum wage of LE 30,000 a month, instead of the astronomical figures earned by officials of the former regime.
“The director of the Security Directorate earned LE 750,000 a month, and the director of traffic management earned LE 650,000 a month, according to official records,” Nour said, adding that he had a plan to reform and restructure the system of wages in Egypt to achieve social justice.
He would add LE12 billion to the budget, to be designated to developing the health care system. In order to achieve this, he continued, the state’s money stolen by officials from the former regime must be restored to its rightful owners.
The assets of many former government officials and businessmen have been frozen as they undergo investigations of charges ranging between squandering and appropriating public funds and abuse of power. Several reports have estimated these officials’ fortunes, including former president Hosni Mubarak’s, to be billions of pounds.
Nour said that Egypt’s natural resources must be invested. He condemned exporting gas to Israel for reduced prices under the former regime.
He explained his plan to increase Egypt’s tax income without burdening citizens. According to Nour, 60 percent of Egypt’s tax income comes from the people, while 40 percent comes from government institutions and major businesses.
Major businesses, he continued, evaded paying billions in taxes while the modest, honest Egyptians were forced to pay most of the country’s tax income, under the former regime.
Nour promised that citizens who earn less than LE 10,000 a year won’t be obliged to pay taxes under his rule. He also vowed to set an unemployment subsidy of LE 300.
Nour denied receiving any foreign funding to support him politically especially from the US and accused the former regime of spreading these “false accusations.” He stressed that he was from a modest background and all the money he possessed was from honest, hard work.
“I’m against all the policies of the former US administration especially towards Palestine,” he added.
The Camp David Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel needs to be amended in accordance with the current situation in the region, especially with regards to the number of Egyptian soldiers deployed in Sinai, he said.
According to the treaty, which was signed between Egypt and Israel in the United States in 1979, no more than one division of Egyptian armed forces is allowed to be stationed within an area lying approximately 50 km east of the Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal.
This point has been widely criticized and condemned by opposition groups and activists.
Regarding Nour’s previous detainment, he said that the prosecutor general agreed to reopen his case.
The politician and lawyer had served four years in prison on charges of forging signatures to form his party, Al-Ghad, charges which he vehemently denied. Before the court found him guilty, he came second to then-president Hosni Mubarak in Egypt’s first multi-candidate elections in 2005.
Nour said witnesses would explain that they had previously false testimonies to implicate him under the instructions of State Security officials.
Egypt’s political future
Egypt should be turned into a parliamentary system and a civil state, Nour said.
“The idea of a civil state doesn’t contradict Islam,” he said. “It stems from the womb of Al-Azhar.”
“I respect all religions and the concept that political decisions shouldn’t contradict with them. However, I’m against forcing a specific religion on the political arena,” he added.
Regarding the fallout between Egypt and the Nile basin countries about Egypt and Sudan’s lion share in the Nile water, Nour said he issued a 30-paper study titled “The water crisis and its solution.” Former Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit should be prosecuted for his ill-policies which lead to the crisis, he said.
The results of the referendum on the constitutional amendments were announced during the symposium with 77.2 percent voting yes and 22.8 percent voting no.
Although Nour and most opposition groups voted no, he said that he respected the results and applauded it.
“We believe in democracy and the people’s ability to achieve it,” he said.
Nour condemned the attack on his competitor, former head of the IAEA Mohamed ElBaradei at a polling station in Moqqatam on Saturday.
“I respect and value ElBaradei,” Nour said.
Arab League Secretary General and presidential hopeful Amr Moussa held a symposium at Sawy Cultural Wheel on March 8, where he faced a wave of criticism and tough questions from the audience.
Although a few hundred attended Nour’s symposium, the turnout was evidently much less than Moussa’s.
Nour said he would visit three governorates each week until the presidential elections are held to discuss his political program with the people. He added that he would hold a similar session every Monday in Cairo.