In its Human Development Report (HDR) for Egypt in 2021, issued last week, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) reviews what can objectively be described as a “success story” of which the Egyptian people can reasonably be proud.
In barely seven years, the state has managed to tackle many extremely difficult challenges simultaneously, both domestic and regional, combined with keeping at bay the threat of extremism and terrorist groups, all the while focusing on improving living conditions for the majority of Egyptians.
While attending the launch of the report, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi reiterated his deep belief that any successes the government achieved would not have been possible without the understanding and endurance of the Egyptian people, who withstood the harsh effects of an ambitious economic reform plan, knowing that it would bear fruit in the near future, and provide a better life.
The UNDP report is the 12th to be issued on Egypt since 1994 and the first in 10 years. The UNDP introduced the report in 1990 to define and measure development and to rank countries based on their Human Development Index (HDI), which ranks education, health and income.
Issuing the report this year is another indication of the keenness of the Egyptian government to be transparent in listing both successes and challenges. This will certainly help to provide a clear picture for all outside investors whom Egypt is looking forward to attracting.
Egypt’s 2021 report highlights human development between 2011 and 2020, stressing the key philosophy behind the measures that President Al-Sisi took to achieve development in many sectors: Egyptians must be at the centre of the development process, providing them with a better life that respects their human dignity.
“The report renews and confirms Egypt’s commitment to a development approach that puts people at the centre of the development processes as the principal driver of and the primary stakeholder in its outcomes,” said Randa Abul-Hosn, UNDP resident representative in Egypt during the launch last week.
For her part, the Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Said, stressed that “the national sustainable development strategy, Egypt’s Vision 2030, aims primarily at improving the quality of life for the Egyptian citizen, out of a steadfast belief that human beings are the main actors in achieving development, and ultimately the desired goal.”
Accordingly, Egypt increased investments in its human capital, undertaking serious reforms, and implemented major development projects and initiatives in the sectors of education, health, housing and utilities to provide adequate housing and a decent life for all Egyptians, while paying the utmost attention to politically, economically and socially empowering women and the young, within a more general and comprehensive framework for guaranteeing human rights, foremost among which is the right to development.
Across the world, poverty has spiked, inequalities have widened due to Covid-19, and global human development is going backwards for the first time since 1990. Yet Egypt has managed to maintain positive economic growth, mostly due to the implementation of bold economic reforms, noted the UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner, while congratulating Egypt on its achievements in key development areas.
Even though the government has taken social protection measures to ease the consequences of the economic reform programme, eventually the challenges the Egyptian state has been facing will continue to burden Egyptian society. President Al-Sisi’s motto for facing those challenges, especially while confronting terrorist groups active in Sinai as well as the Muslim Brotherhood, is to defeat terrorism with construction and development.
The state has worked on developing all key economic sectors in a comprehensive manner. The latest initiative on this front has involved developing the countryside with an estimated budget of LE 250 billion over three years. Through the Decent Life initiative, “hayah karima” in Arabic, infrastructure projects will be carried out in as many as 4,658 villages over three phases, improving the lives of at least 58 million Egyptians. Sisi launched the first phase of the initiative in mid-2021, and it is due to be completed by the end of the 2021-22 fiscal year.
Moreover, ambitious government projects have managed to raise the availability of sanitation services provided to the countryside from 12 to 38 per cent, affirming that during the next three years the country aims to provide sanitation services to the entire countryside.
In order to improve sanitation, and to save water, the government has also exerted tremendous efforts to line canals so that they can eliminate pollution and establish dual and triple sewage treatment plants. Between 2014 and 2024, the government’s spending will exceed LE 600-700 billion to this end.
While praising the successes achieved on several fronts, highlighted by the UNDP report, President Al-Sisi asked those involved to include in their future reports challenges that Egypt and the region continue to face such as terrorism, illegal emigration and refugees in Egypt. Egypt hosts five-six million refugees who live among Egyptians as guests, mingling with the people and enjoying the same services the state provides to its citizens. Al-Sisi rightly noted that this number of refugees “can be equal to the [population] of two or three countries,” and therefore, the report should take this into consideration.
There are many challenges lying ahead, and the population growth rate at 2.6 per cent increases makes them more difficult. However, with the achievements of the past seven years, Egyptians can certainly be hopeful nonetheless.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly