CAIRO: With Egypt’s future in mind, presidential hopeful Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh along with several political figures and scholars discussed his campaign’s vision and the fate of the economy at Egypt’s International Economic Forum on Sunday.
Heading the discussions, Ahmed Galal, managing director of the Economic Research Forum, along with Sameh Makram Ebeid, parliament representative of the Red Sea governorate, and Abol Fotoh discussed Egypt’s current socio-economic obstacles and possible solutions.
Also present was former minister Moshira Khattab, who stressed that political parties must be clear on foreign policy, acknowledging human rights in Egypt as well as empowering the youth.
“The political decisions being made are moving opposite of the public’s needs,” she said. “We must also start addressing human rights and stop shying away from the issue by labeling it something different.”
“There is no political law, this must change, in order to facilitate business and solve our problems,” said Abol Fotoh. “The extreme bureaucratic system that Egypt has is one of the reasons behind the corruption we suffer from, we must ease this system.”
Abol Fotoh pointed out that adjusting the country’s legal system would cure the state from the plague of corruption.
Moreover, as Egypt looks to move forward in this transition, the country must build new foundations and this is where education comes in. Abol Fotoh proposed that the education system be completely reevaluated, saying, “The foundation of any renaissance is education, we must review the way we teach our children.”
Surprised by a visit to the Tenth of Ramadan industrial city, where he found that some factories had Sri Lankan and Indian workers, Abol Fotoh stressed that the country needs to train and teach students the right skills so they can find jobs and serve the local market.
“There must be a nationalization of education, an equal system with an equal quality of education,” he said.
“The current scam of free education, where a student graduates without the proper skills to work in society, must change,” Khattab said.
Abol Fotoh, however, proposed that education remains free up until college, where those who can afford to pay would, and those who cannot afford to do so are provided with financial assistance.
Along with education, officials also reviewed the current state of the economy.
With a year gone by since the Jan. 25 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak, Ebeid stressed that the country must move forward in its economic discussions.
“We must talk about the economy in a pragmatic way, discuss what we can do and not just keep saying that a revolution happened because the economy is in a tough state,” he said.
Ebeid, who was concerned with the tourism losses that have affected the lives of at least 10 million employees, pointed out that there has been a scare in the Red Sea governorate especially as this part of the country relies almost solely on tourism.
“There have been fears in the Red Sea from the Salafi movement there who previously stated that tourists are only welcome if they respect our religion and traditions,” he said.
Abol Fotoh responded to Ebeid’s concern by saying that the ultra-conservative Salafi movement will be balanced out the other more moderate members of parliament.
He also referred to those with radical views as “shallowly” religious and not truly representative of mainstream Egyptian society.
“We are not really threatened by these radical fronts, they are not new to Egypt either, these people have always preached these thoughts, and their cure is also education and to keep them from affecting others in society we must also educate the people so they can make their own decisions,” he said.
“I am faithful that this front will also keep evolving,” he added. “This is a segment of society that labeled politics as a sin before the revolution and today they have a political party,” Abol Fotoh said referring to the Salafi Al-Nour Party, which has the second most seats in parliament after the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party.
Since Egypt’s youth sacrificed their lives for self-determination, Abol Fotoh said he envisions a free Egypt where the people never allow for the obstruction of freedom of speech, thought, or even the way they dress.
“We are never going back to the days before the revolution, where we called for bread, freedom, dignity and justice,” said Abol Fotoh. “It is the people’s role to monitor the parliament and the government. We tell the government what to do not ask them what they’re going to do for us.”
Galal, on the other hand, said Egypt needs an economic agenda that prioritizes growth and social justice. “I have not seen any political movements with an economic program,” said Galal.
Abol Fotoh, however, pointed out that his campaign discusses educational reform, tourism, as well as empowering youth and women.
In regards to tourism, he stressed the importance of unused coasts alongside Egypt’s Red Sea as well as the North Coast adding that the country must review these areas and make the most of them while also paying more attention to the country’s antiquities and historical artifacts.