PM reiterates economic challenges in annual report to parliament

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By Heba Hesham

CAIRO: The prime minister reiterated to parliament Sunday previous statements about Egypt’s worsening economic conditions, less than a week after the party controlling the majority criticized the government’s failure.

In the government’s first annual report to the recently elected parliament, Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury said that Western and Arab countries haven’t honored their promises of loans and aid to Egypt.

Indicating a global conspiracy against Egypt, he said that many countries placed obstacles to Egyptian exports, while international banks were urged not to transfer foreign currency to their branches in Egypt.

But Egypt, he told MPs, will not bow down.

“Egypt is committed to all of its agreement with the foreign countries. But, it is time for us to deal with the world based on the interests of the Egyptians,” he said.

PA Speaker Saad El-Katatni said on Feb. 19 that El-Ganzoury’s statement would determine the future of this government.

The Freedom and Justice Party, which controls 43 percent of the People’s Assembly and in which El-Katatni is a member, criticized last Monday the Cabinet’s failure to deal with security and the economy.

Reiterating its call for a national unity government, representative of the political powers elected to parliament, the FJP said, “There is a desire that has become clear to export more crises to any future government.”

However, Amr Hashem Rabie, expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told Tahrir newspaper that the constitutional declaration which governs Egypt in the current period does not give the parliament the right to withdraw confidence from the Cabinet.

Appointed by the military council last November, El-Ganzoury is due to stay in office until mid-year, the end of the transitional period, until power is handed over to an elected president at the end of June.

On Sunday, the premier reviewed the Cabinet’s performance during the transitional period and its efforts to overcome obstacles.

He said police has been returning to the streets after the security vacuum that plagued the country in the wake of the uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak last year.

“I can see that security is noticeably back day after day,” El-Ganzoury said.

El-Ganzoury noted that the economy has not been free of impediments since he took office late last year.

Reiterating an earlier speech to parliament, he said the economy has been declining over the past 10 years. El-Ganzoury served as Egypt’s prime minister in the 1990s and left office in 1999.

The state debt was multiplied six times in the period from 1999-2011 to reach LE 807 billion, up from LE 147 billion, he said. This, he continued, consumes quarter of the state budget to serve the government and external debts.

The political upheaval in 2011 spurred a series of economic problems, mainly in tourism and investment, while imports rose from $12 billion to $25 billion, he said.

“About 45 percent of the flour used in bread, 35 percent of sugar and 65 percent of gas are imported from abroad,” he added.

He said that the number of the unemployed mounted to 3.5 million registered at the Ministry of Manpower which means that an average of 200,000 people join the ranks of the unemployed every year.

The government decided to restart work at 1,750 factories in which operations halted for eight years because of debts or marketing; to increase the number of families benefiting from social security pensions to 1.5 million households; and to add 5 million breadwinner women and children under six to the health insurance system.

El-Ganzoury added he will develop a two-year plan to increase investment and the rate of growth to 5.5 percent, reduce the budget deficit to 8 percent and trim unemployment.

“There is no way to Egypt but to get out of the old [Nile] valley to increase the area of reclaimed lands, to increase the per capita share of lands, now at 250 square meters, and to reactivate long-stalled projects,” he added.

The prime minister deemed this as the solution to all the economic and social problems of the country.

In the statement, reportedly discussed and reviewed by the military council, El-Ganzoury did not mention the government’s efforts regarding the retrieval of stolen funds that were smuggled outside the country by the figures of the former regime.

He however said that 46 amendments and draft laws for the independence of judiciary, combating corruption and monopoly among others would be later presented to the PA.


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