Egypt's parliament – the House of Representatives – will take a final vote on the country’s new budget and development plan (fiscal year 2019/20) on Monday.
The budget and plan are expected to be approved by most MPs though some sharply criticised the ministries of finance and planning yesterday, accusing them of not allocating enough money to help poor and limited-income classes.
Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal told MPs on Sunday afternoon that there will be a final vote on the state budget (2019/20), the average-term country’s sustainable development plan (2019/2022), the budgets of the public economic organisations, and the budget of the National Organisation for Military Production (2019/20).
Abdel-Aal indicated that there will be also a vote on the yearly bonus to be allotted to state employees either covered or not covered by the Civil Service law.
“Employees and civil servants will obtain this bonus when they receive July’s salary,” said Abdel-Aal.
Meanwhile, MPs, particularly the ones affiliated with the leftist bloc known as the 25-30 group, seized a plenary session attended by Minister of Planning Hala El-Saeed on Sunday evening to launch a scathing criticism of the government of prime minister Mostafa Madbouly, accusing it of implementing harsh and austere economic reform measures without doing enough, in return, to protect the poor and limited-income classes.
Mohamed Badrawi, the spokesperson of the National Movement party, claimed the economic reform programme led to increasing the number of Egyptians under the poverty line to 60 million.
“As much as 60 per cent of these live in upper Egypt’s densely populated governorates of Sohag, El-Minya and Qena,” said Badrawi, adding that “people in these governorates lack any adequate health or education services as the government moved to cut spending on these two important sectors in line with the economic reform programme.”
Badrawi said the new budget deals a new blow to poor classes as it aims to cut electricity and fuel subsidies.
“Worse, the new budget earmarks a mere amount of LE18 billion in allocations to poor citizens under the takaful and karama support programmes,” said Badrawi, arguing that “this amount will by no means help give adequate social protection to poor classes or reduce the increasing numbers of citizens committing suicide because of the hardships of their daily lives.”
Mostafa Bakri, an independent MP, said the new budget is not clear on which measures it intends to take to help the poor.
“All what is clear is that it intends to cut electricity and fuel subsidies by big margins next July,” said Bakri, also indicating that “the figures released by the Central Agency for Statistics show that poverty rates in upper Egypt governorates increased to more than 60 per cent.”
Mohamed Fouad, an independent MP, said it is deplorable that the budget cuts allocations to the education and health sectors.
“This will neither help implement the comprehensive social insurance programme nor improve health and education services provided to poor and limited-income citizens,” said Fouad.
Ahmed Tantawi, a leftist MP, also criticized the budget aiming to cut electricity and fuel subsidies. “This goes in line with what is called the economic reform programme which has done a lot of injustice to poor classes since 2016,” said Tantawi, also arguing that “the increase in salaries of state employees and civil servants will not at all help mitigate the negative impact of harsh economic reform measures on poor citizens.”
In response, Minister of Planning Hala El-Saeed said the economic reform programme has led to a tangible improvement in the country’s public finances. “It has also helped create a lot jobs and reduce unemployment to 9 per cent,” said El-Saeed, pointing out that “most of the jobs were created in service sectors growing fast like telecommunications and information technology,” said El-Saeed.
El-Saeed argued that the creation of new jobs led to a remarkable rise in incomes of citizens.
“Please note that we introduce real reforms and not tranquilisers, and that these reforms could negatively affect the lives of many citizens but on the short term, while on the long term they will help improve the economy and create a sustainable kind of development,” said El-Saeed.