It is certainly not the easiest job in the world. Egypt’s incoming President will inherit a whole host of complex projects and hurdles from the previous regime, including a large and highly corrupt police force, crumbling infrastructure, bureaucratic labyrinths for governmental offices, a persistently high unemployment rate, inefficient economic and healthcare systems, a domestic deficit, and large international debts are only a few of the overdue items sitting on the desk of Egypt’s president.
Chief among the economic woes is staggering national debt. Egypt’s domestic deficit, largely loans the government has taken out on itself, currently stands at approximately EGP 1.18 trillion and foreign loans another EGP 203bn according to the Egyptian Central bank. While the international debt isn’t considered abnormally high for a country with the size of Egypt’s income, the domestic deficit has breached what are considered safe limits. Experts say that having such high internal debts could put local lenders in danger of default, get in the way of the private sector’s ability to borrow, and affect the quality and profitability of assets.
The President will have to decide if his administration will expand the international debt by taking on additional foreign assistance to overcome the domestic deficit, a matter which usually raises a strong public reaction over issues of state sovereignty and the conditions of such loans.
In addition to debt, the unemployment rate has crippled growth in Egypt with joblessness at 12.4 percent, a rise from 11.9 percent in a span of three months, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. The obvious demands for improved infrastructure in healthcare and educational systems illustrate the stagnation of some of the most important factors that contribute to growth. The education system, for example, lacks qualified and trained teachers who know how to deliver information to students in an interactive way. Teaching methods lacking in creativity and curricula need to be revised.
Dr. Abdel Fattah Rizk, the Secretary General of the Physicians’ Syndicate, stated a set of demands that Egypt’s healthcare system needs, including, raising its government funding to 15 percent of the country’s budget. However Rizk also explained that the problem with the system is much larger than a simple budgetary problem as “the whole system needs to be restructured.” He added that there needs to be equality in the system and all hospitals across the nation have to provide the same quality care. “All patients should have access to the same quality of healthcare, rather than sending the ministers and officials to be treated abroad at the expense of the state” added Rizk.
As if that was not enough, the president will have to contend with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) and the military elites, the de facto rulers of the country since 1952 who, according to analysts, control land and assets equal to anywhere between 15 and 40 percent of the economy. Even getting a solid figure on their holdings is difficult with the military consistently maintaining a tight lid on information dealing with its holdings.
Possibly the most critical challenge facing the president will be establishing legitimacy following a highly polarized and controversial election attended by a public overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the entire transition. Significant boycotting and voter nullification occurred in the second round of elections. Al Ahram Online’s count put the number of voters at almost 24 million at 3 pm Monday, while Al Jazeera put the numbers at approximately 15 million voters out of over 50 million people who are eligible to vote. Unofficial reports have put the number of people who invalidated their votes at somewhere between 800,000 and one million. Whichever candidate wins the election will have to convince the large majority of the population who didn’t vote for them, or who voted for them as the least worst choice, that they lead the whole country.
Additional reporting by Heba Hesham