By Heba Hesham
CAIRO: Egypt’s lawmakers slammed the government’s first annual report to parliament, which was presented by Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury on Feb. 26.
Parliament convened Sunday to resume discussion of a PA committee report on the Cabinet’s statement, devoting five sessions to the subject, which many see as a step towards a no-confidence vote.
The Freedom and Justice Party, the biggest parliamentary bloc, has repeatedly said it will push for a no-confidence vote to sack the military-appointed Cabinet.
With resistance from the ruling military council and debate over the lack of legal provisions allowing parliament to take such a measure, the FJP seemed to be backing off.
“The government’s statement can only be that of a former regime’s Cabinet,” said Mohamed El-Sagheer, a Reform and Development Party MP.
The Islamist MP said that while the government proposed future plans as if it will remain in power for generations, when it came to short-term issues, it had no plan.
“The government has provided a crisis each month,” he said, and “exported problems to parliament to punish the people for their revolution.”
The current government protects remnants of the former regime, he said, responses to PA recommendation to transfer former president Hosni Mubarak to Tora prison hospital, and other recommendations that were ignored.
FJP MP Hassan El-Brens said the government talks in the media about the “weak parliament and its inability to meet people’s demands in order to turn people against the parliament.
“In fact, the parliament sets dates to interrogate the government, which it ignores to claim that parliament does nothing,” he said.
Al-Wasat MP Essam Sultan said the government’s statement is traditional and lacks swift measures to reform the Ministry of Interior or to purge corruption.
“We haven’t heard one word in the statement regarding the stolen funds,” he said.
In the statement, reportedly discussed and reviewed by the military council, El-Ganzoury made no mention of government efforts to retrieve funds smuggled outside the country by icons of the former regime.
According to Said Negeda, head of the PA’s industrial sub-committee, the ministers of petroleum, industry and trade and other related ministries, denied any knowledge of El-Ganzoury’s statement when asked about issues that concerned them.
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Heiba, head of the agriculture sub-committee, criticized the statement for neglecting the status of the Egyptian farmer and lacking a clear strategy to solve agricultural issues.
“The government views education as a burden that requires spending instead of an investment,” said MP Shaaban Abdel Alim, head of the education sub-committee.
Mohamed Abdel Moniem El-Sawy, head of the culture sub-committee, mocked the statement for ignoring culture; and instead of acknowledging its importance in the revolution, the government considered it a harmful issue to warn people about.
“While media was mentioned in one line in the statement, it was discussed from an economic point of view. However, the government was generous enough to give seven lines to discuss the tourism problem,” he said bitterly. “Unfortunately, it didn’t provide adequate solutions to the deteriorating condition of tourism.”
Lawmakers criticized the government for not achieving equality in wages and social justice.
“The statement said nothing about the many ministerial consultants who are paid 50 percent of Egyptian wages,” said El-Badry Farghaly, a leftist MP who represents Al-Tagammu Party.
Meanwhile, MP Hussien Aboul Naga, member of El-Etehad Party, said that while his party accepted the statement, it does not mean that the government is exempt of responsibility.
“The statement is not good enough for a country like Egypt; but we are in a transitional phase, a long part of which has passed, and now we should focus on the constitution and presidential election,” he said.
MP Adel Shaalan of the Egyptian Citizen Party echoed this opinion.
“I will not grant my confidence to a government responsible for increasing poverty among the Egyptian people,” Farghaly said. “I didn’t do that during Mubarak’s reign and I won’t give confidence to figures of his regime after the revolution.”
MP Amin Eskandar added that it is not enough to merely reject the government’s statement.
“We should sound a warning bell to call for a national dialogue because the revolution is being stolen by the military council and a government made up of remnants of the former regime,” he said.
Sultan said the situation is now bigger than the government and its statement.
“I believe amending the presidential election law to ban figures of the former regime from holding state positions is better than giving a no-confidence vote to the government,” he said.
“The problem with the no-confidence vote is that it is associated with a dispute between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military council and we shouldn’t side with any party against the other,” he added.
Sultan strongly criticized Mubarak’s intelligence chief and presidential candidate Omar Suleiman in Sunday’s PA session, saying that his party will submit a draft law to the lower house of parliament aimed at banning remnants of the former regime from holding state positions for five years to save the revolution.
Sultan accused Suleiman of being a “corrupt icon of the toppled regime, who killed and tortured Egyptians.”