By Mai Shams El-Din
CAIRO: Former deputy supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood group and presidential hopeful Khairat Al-Shater outlined on Monday his presidential platform with a campaign titled “Egypt’s Renaissance: The People’s Will,” emphasizing its Islamic frame of reference.
“Any project should have a frame of reference. In the West they use the capitalist frame; the Soviet Union followed the communist frame, and our frame of reference will be Islamic,” Al-Shater said, addressing a crowd of local and international reporters at a press conference Monday.
Al-Shater said that his project is not a reflection of his views only, but a representation of the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm the Freedom and Justice Party, which adopts the Islamic frame of reference chosen by the people in the parliamentary elections.
“We did not find difficulty articulating our program because we’ve been working on it [even when we were inside Mubarak’s prisons] and we have been working more extensively right after the revolution,” he said.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s chief financier, who was imprisoned for over 12 years under the ousted regime, believes that his renaissance project is not the responsibility of the presidential institution alone, but also the responsibility of parliament, the judiciary, civil society and the media.
“We have to get rid of the notion of the miracle-maker president who will come to change everything at once,” the business tycoon said.
Al-Shater slammed the nomination of former spy chief Omar Suleiman for the presidency, deeming it “an insult to the revolution and lack of understanding of the nature of the change that has happened after the revolution.”
“We refuse all attempts to reproduce the former regime. We will go to the streets again if the elections are rigged,” Al-Shater said.
Al-Shater does not believe in uniting the Islamist front behind one Islamist candidate because “the Egyptian people have enough awareness to choose for themselves.”
Asked about the possibility that Suleiman’s candidacy was a reaction to his own nomination, Al-Shater replied that “there is no need for too much analysis, and that it should be left for the people to choose.”
Al-Shater asserted that if he reaches the top post, he will be the president of all Egyptians not the Brotherhood.
“I resigned once I was chosen by the Shoura Council as the official candidate, which means that I am no longer administratively connected to the group,” Al-Shater explained.
Al-Shater promotes a free market economy that liberates the private sector from state control to encourage investment and create jobs.
“Many criticize me for adopting a market economy-based vision, but we do not have the choice. We have no alternative for supporting our development projects; they cannot be funded except [through financing] them from outside the state budget [meaning with the help of the private sector],” he explained.
“For example, reform in the infrastructure of the electricity sector costs LE 15 billion. The state is unwilling to finance that, hence we will need the help of the private sector,” Al-Shater said.
His economic vision also favors a shift from a rentier economy to the development of a service-based economy by reforming services like education, health and transportation that will eventually lead to a production-based economy.
Al-Shater criticized the handling of IMF and World Bank loans, refusing to reject foreign borrowing on principle but stressing that “foreign borrowing should not be the first option.”
“Our problem is not about the source of foreign borrowing nor with the conditions imposed, the real challenge is who will receive this loan and who will need to repay it,” Al-Shater explained. He added that it is unfair for the transitional government to receive the loan and spend it, leaving the new, more permanent government to carry the burden of repaying it within the allotted 18 months.
“We are left with two solutions, either not to take the loan until a new government is in office, or for the current government to step down now and a new permanent government to take over,” he suggested.
Al-Shater said his economic plan is divided into short, medium and long term visions through which the needs of a sustainable economic development program will be met.
He criticized the “deep state” that was cultivated during the Mubarak era, where a strong state with an iron security fist suppressed other institutions like the private sector and civil society.
“There was no balance between such a state and the rest of society. The January 25 Revolution created this balance but we have to keep it by drafting a constitution to balance powers, and laws to complement the constitution. We need a legislative revolution,” he said.
Al-Shater also promised drastic reform in the security sector, health, education, and efforts to preserve Egypt’s national fabric and counter sectarian strife.