The government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli is mobilising on multiple fronts to translate the recommendations passed by the seventh National Youth Forum into action.
The two-day Forum, held at the New Administrative Capital on 30 and 31 July under the auspices of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, focused on reviewing the results of Egypt’s IMF-inspired economic programme and its impact on citizens across Egypt.
Speaking on 30 July, President Al-Sisi said: “When we decided to implement the economic reform programme we were in the position of a surgeon who must operate to save a patient. At the end of 2016 some cabinet ministers feared the reforms would trigger a backlash on a wide scale. I told them that if the people rejected the reform programme then they should tender their resignations and the next day I would call an early presidential election.”
“We had two choices at the time. Either reform the economy or step down and let others get on with it. Now, after three years of economic reforms, I think everybody feels Egypt is in a much better position.”
At the end of the forum Al-Sisi announced a number of recommendations, including speeding up the implementation of the Decent Life Initiative which he said “aims to improve living conditions in Egypt’s poorest villages”.
First proposed by Al-Sisi in January, the initiative involves upgrading houses, improving infrastructure and providing job opportunities for young village residents.
Following a cabinet meeting on 1 August Madbouli said the government was earmarking LE2 billion for the Decent Life Initiative.
“It will also receive $500 million in funding from the World Bank, supplemented by financial donations and contributions from national banks, NGOs and investment projects.”
Madbouli said the government would continue to support social protection programmes and the subsidy system while establishing an accurate database to determine who should benefit.
Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali announced that an estimated 1,000 families will be added to the Takaful and Karama welfare programmes at the beginning of the new fiscal year.
She said her ministry had established a database of seven million households and would use it to ensure families receive the benefits for which they are eligible.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) revealed in a report on 1 August that the percentage of Egyptians living in extreme poverty — set at $1.3 daily — rose from 27.8 per cent in 2015 to 32.5 in 2018.
On the same day the Ministry of Social Solidarity and Ministry of Endowments signed a cooperation protocol to furnish 1,000 housing units at Cairo’s Asmarat project. Asmarat rehouses residents moved from slum areas.
Minister of Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa said the ministry will allocate LE30 million to provide the furniture necessary for the 1,000 flats.
The protocol, said Madbouli, follows a recommendation made by the seventh National Youth Forum.
“All the recommendations,” he added, “aim to combat poverty and promote sustainable development.”
Madbouli also revealed government agencies have been instructed to begin the national digitisation project and the first roll out would be in Port Said.
On 30 June President Al-Sisi said creating a comprehensive database of citizens was an essential component of national security. He told the National Youth Forum that artificial intelligence would be used to digitalise government services and that, when complete, the picture it provides of the financial and health conditions of Egyptians, would allow service providers to identify their needs and offer proactive help before it is applied for.
“The system will replace the extensive surveys we had to rely on in the past when offering social services,” said Al-Sisi.
Parliamentary spokesman Salah Hassaballah said one of the most positive aspects of the forum is that it is now held on a regular basis, but in different locations, and “following each forum recommendations are adopted, most of them geared towards offering social protections to the most vulnerable in society”.
Hassaballah told a press conference on 1 August that one of the forums’ most significant decisions was to form working groups of young people to follow up on the forums’ recommendations.
The taskforces, he said, would strengthen communication between young people and a wide variety of state bodies.
During the forum Al-Sisi announced recommendations that included turning a simulation model of the cabinet into a permanent dialogue mechanism with the involvement of the government, establishing a task force comprised of young people to follow-up, under cabinet supervision, on the implementation of national mega-projects, and adopting a plan to redevelop Alexandria’s Ras Al-Teen area.