Egypt opposition demand public debate on state budget
The people have the right to know where their money is going, say opposition political party representatives
Ahram Online , Saturday 27 Apr 2013
File photo: Anti-government protests in Egypt (Photo:Reuters)
At a press conference held Saturday at the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) in Cairo, several of Egypt's opposition parties demanded that the state budget be made public and discussed.
The Strong Egypt Party, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Egyptian Current Party as well as the Federation of Independent Trade Unions were all represented, urging the government to publish the details of the state budget. The Constitution Party although not represented on Saturday, was included as one of the parties calling for the press conference.
Rights lawyer Malek Adly of ECESR explained that a lawsuit was filed demanding the budget is made public after the government ignored a request made to publicly discuss it. The lawsuit was filed before the State Council on behalf of several parties and NGOs.
Adly added that it is unconstitutional for the Shura Council, the upper house of Egypt's parliament, to be discussing the budget when it is the task of the lower house (the House of Representative) to do so.
The Shura Council is currently Egypt's sole legislative body as the last House of Representatives was dissolved following a court ruling that the electoral law used in polling for the body was unconstitutional.
Representative of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party Ali Soliman stated that the parties demanded the budget be published in a national newspaper.
"They [the government] wants to run Egypt like they run the Muslim Brotherhood … the Brotherhood are used to secrecy and following orders," he said slamming the government appointed by President Morsi — who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood — for lack of transparency.
Egyptian Social Democratic Party member Maha Abdel-Nasser insisted Egyptians should know how much is spent on their education, healthcare and how much is spent on policing or by government officials.
"We cannot see economic development without social justice, and we cannot accomplish social justice without transparency," he added.
Head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Kamal Abu-Eita underlined that workers should have a say in the state's budget plan.
"We [the workers] have been kept ignorant for years, kept away from any form of participation in our economic fate … We are the essence of production in this country and we deserve to know where our money goes," he said.
Abu-Eita further slammed the government for pursuing loans from other countries instead of focusing on boosting production.
"The government is pursuing policies that make the country submissive to foreign countries. We do not want to be a nation of beggars; we want to be a productive nation," Abu-Eita said.
Egypt’s government continues to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a $4.8 billion loan. The conditions of the loan remain private, although critics say it will require economic reforms that would include lifting state subsidies and devaluing the local currency.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Imam of the Strong Egypt Party insisted that access to the details of the state budget is a basic right of every citizen.
"We [the people] need to know how much is allocated to the police, military, servicing of debts, subsidies … We have information that the police budget will increase 300 percent. which means more tear gas and benefits for corrupt officers" Imam said.
Egypt's Ministry of Finance submitted unofficially to the Shura Council the 2013/14 draft budget in late March. However, the ministry, according to sources, recently withdrew the draft to make adjustments to comply with the updated economic plan it recently submitted to the IMF. The adjustments could include cuts to subsidies and public sector salaries.