UK: Gates to open for Egypt aid after transition to civil authority
Amer Sultan in London, Wednesday 7 Mar 2012
London will provide Cairo with aid once civilian president takes over, says British diplomat — despite concerns military rulers won't hand over all powers

Britain is ready to launch aid programmes for Egypt once power has been transferred from the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to a civilian president, according to a senior British diplomat. It also warns that there is a risk that the SCAF will not hand over all its powers.

“Those programmes are ready. The goodwill is there, the design is there, the money is there and I think as soon as we get a government that can take longer term decisions and begin engaging in a kind of five-year programme, for example, then we can push the button and we can really help,” the senior British diplomat told Ahram Online.

Egypt is on the top of a list of Arab Spring countries that receive what the British government calls technical assistance. London launched an Arab partnership programme just after the start of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

British assistance concentrates on helping Egypt in the fields of public accounts management, in order to enhance transparency and education with the purpose of developing skills for employability, the diplomat — who is part of the British Middle East policymaking team — added.

The diplomat confirmed that the UK government is now helping Egypt establish mechanisms for fighting corruption.“We are already paying for an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) anti-corruption team which is working with the Egyptian authorities,” the diplomat confirmed.

London strongly believes its aid programmes will make a difference in Egypt. The diplomat suggested that because of current political uncertainty amid the transitional period in Egypt, these programmes are on hold.

“Now I have to put my hand up and confess we haven’t got that far because these interim authorities have had a packed agenda,” the diplomat explained. Once Egypt has a permanent civilian president, the diplomat added, the country will be in a better position to negotiate with international institutions on aid packages.

Britain, an ally of the former Mubarak regime, does not expect the transfer of full powers from the SCAF to a civil authority will be easy.The British diplomat pointed out that at crucial moments the SCAF has taken the right decisions about allowing the democratic process to go forward.However, London is keeping a close eye on what is going on behind closed doors.

“There are different views within the SCAF. Some (members) consistently supported the democratic transition; others have found it difficult to imagine,” the diplomat said, hinting that the resistance within Egypt's ruling SCAF (18 members) to handing over power is a real risk to democracy, transparency and accountability.

"It’s messy and it’s a bit slow. But I think Jimmy Carter (the former US president) is absolutely right to put down a marker saying that there is a risk that this question of reluctance to change can go too far and that at the end of the transition we find that not enough power has been handed over. There is that risk,” the diplomat warned.

A British high level military delegation visited Egypt within recent weeks, meeting with the military council. The diplomat, who attended the meeting, believes that the SCAF does not only want to hand over the presidential powers it ended up with, but that some of its members understand that change is a must.

“I think the more realistic ones realise that this is the new Egypt [and] we can’t have this kind of unaccountability anymore,” the diplomat said.