Egypt’s highest prizes in arts, culture and science will be granted on 26 August following a two-month delay that raised doubts about the prize granting procedures.
Said Tawfik, the Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Culture, which is the official body entitled to grant the awards, told Ahram Online that they will be granted this month.
He added that the prize-granting procedure will begin after the Supreme Council for Culture (SCC) and the culture ministry receive an official pledge from the finance ministry to support the culture ministry’s budget of LE7 million (about $1 million) allocated for the awards.
The state prizes were supposed to be disbursed on 20 June, however, former culture minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz failed to hold the required meeting to vote on prize recipients and refused to authorise any SCC member to head the award granting process.
The prizes have not been cancelled since its establishment in 1958 except for once in 1967 as the Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel broke out in June. The new culture minister Saber Arab said on his first day in office on 16 July that he will work to hold the necessary meeting to vote on the prizes, but he first needs to recover the financial value of the prizes from the ministry of finance.
Arab sent an official memo to Finance Minister Ahmed Galal in July, asking him to return the necessary LE7 million to the Supreme Council for Culture.
The ministry of finance agreed, but it said that it will not immediately return the LE7 million to the culture ministry, but suggested that the ministry can use its financial allocations in the current budget to grant the prizes. The finance ministry pledged in an official statement that it will support the culture ministry’s budget later.
The Shura Council, Egypt's upper house, which was dissolved on 3 July following Morsi's ouster, wanted to decrease the budget allocation for the prizes, deeming it a waste of public funds. The move outraged intellectuals, who took the Islamist-dominated parliament's decision as a "Brotherhood scheme" to destroy Egyptian culture.
The Supreme Council for Culture is considered one of the most important institutions within Egypt's culture ministry, as it is responsible for setting ministry policy and organising ministry activities.