By: Ibrahim al-Masri
Finance Minister Fayad Abdel Moneim said that the government would soon unveil a new plan to reform the country’s petroleum sector, provide electricity subsidies and ensure the safe transport of natural gas to factories.
During a meeting held by the Shura Council’s Economic and Financial Affairs Committee, Moneim said: “No sound economic policy can be created that is not based on statistics and data and does not give true indicators regarding the economic capabilities of each individual citizen.”
The finance minister added that it was necessary to make available reliable statistics about recipients of subsidised petroleum products those in a way that ensures transparency and social justice.
Head of the Economic and Financial Affairs Committee Mohamed Al-Faqi said discussions would soon be held with representatives from the Central Auditing Organisation and Ministry of Petroleum to clarify all points of view about energy subsidies.
Committee member Ashraf Badr Al-Din stated that only those who wield money and influence within Egypt have the capacity to secure government energy subsidies, which totalled EGP 205bn in the public budget of the current fiscal year, EGP 100bn of which was for petroleum subsidies. This translated into roughly EGP 100 per person in Egypt, with a family of five taking in only EGP 500 in subsidised energy every month. He criticised the government for its failure to implement a smart card system in Egypt, pointing to this as evidence that the government has not taken any steps to combat the pervasive level of corruption found within Egyptian society.
Petroleum Minister Sherif Hadarra, however, was quoted recently saying that the country’s smart card programme had already been paid for, with all required cards already purchased, which would be in the hands of citizens by either August or September of this year. Essam Al-Erian, the Shura Council’s majority leader, stated that subsidies were a right enjoyed by the poor and not a privilege, and that to say otherwise was wrong.
The majority leader went on to say that Egypt would get through its current crisis, noting that the government was responsible for cutting spending, regulating markets, and increasing Egyptian production rates.
Verbal altercations later broke out between Al-Faqi and Salmy Al-Sharbiny, president of the Internal Affairs Division of the Petroleum Ministry, regarding corruption within the ministry. Al-Sharbiny rejected such accusations saying that the documents from the Petroleum Ministry were available to all, and that she would not accept such insults regarding her colleagues and staff. Al-Faqi responded saying that a war would soon be launched against corruption within the ministry, not necessarily against certain individuals, but that statistics and documents would be requested over the coming fiscal year, a position which was supported by Al-Din.