Q&A: Egypt parliament speaker talks exclusively to Ahram about chamber's achievements, challenges - part 3

Alaa Thabet, Friday 29 Sep 2017

Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal speaks exclusively to Alaa Thabet, the editor-in-chief of Al-Ahram newspaper

Al-Ahram newspaper (AN): Will parliament play any role, either locally or abroad, to uncover terrorism-supporting countries?

Ali Abdel-Aal (AA): Internally, parliament's role is mainly enacting counter-terrorism legislation to guarantee swift justice and hold those involved in terrorist crimes accountable. We deliver Egypt's point of view to the world by communicating with parliaments in other countries.

AN: What message do you want to give to Egyptians struggling with soaring prices?

AA: The role of parliament is to address the struggle of citizens through laws and control measures. We have called on the government to ensure tight control of markets, to curb exploitation by traders and unreasonable price rises.

AN: Raising fuel prices had provoked a huge public outcry. Why did parliament not pressure the government to postpone the move?

AA: Lifting the subsidy is the bitter remedy for accumulating economic woes brought by policies of successive governments. The subsidising of petrol, diesel and cooking gas has eaten up much of the state expenditures. Political reforms have been put off for decades. Confronting the people with the truth of the crisis and the means to overcome it is the only way out.

AN: Will parliament draft legislation to combat online terrorist crimes?

AA: The chamber is currently looking at a bill on online terrorist crimes submitted by a number of members. The government is also drafting another law in this regard which it will send to parliament once finished. It will be at the top of our priorities during the coming session.

AN: Almost a year after the flotation of the pound, do you think the aim of the move has been achieved? When do you think we can go back to a fixed currency rate?

AA: Floating the currency is one of the most difficult and dangerous economic decisions; it has a far-reaching impact on the country's economic structure as well as other social and political aspects. The move was necessary to have a fixed currency price, regain confidence of local and foreign investors and lure back investment.

It's healthier for investment when the exchange rate is set according to supply and demand without interference from the state.

AN: Do you think the Egyptian economy can recover given the large budget deficit and soaring inflation?

AA: Certainly the Egyptian economy is beginning to recover. Concerted efforts from the government, parliament and the people are needed to achieve quicker recovery, which I expect will take place very soon.

AN: During its last round, parliament set up committees tasked with carrying out field visits to border governorates. A year and a half later, no changes have been made in such areas. How do you view the efficacy of these committees?

AA: Such regions have been neglected for decades. The current parliament is the first to give this magnitude of attention to those areas. Overcoming decades-long problems needs time and an increase in the money earmarked for these areas. Recommendations produced by the committees have been submitted to the government. We constantly follow up with the government to see them carried out.

AN: Why hasn’t parliament passed the local administration law governing the operation of municipalities?

AA: The law aims to combat rampant corruption across municipalities. It is highly important and therefore needs careful consideration and a national dialogue, something that we did not have the time to do during the previous round. It will be one of the main priorities during the next round.

AN: What do you think about criticism directed at the parliament that it has violated the constitution by not passing major laws, including those on transitional justice and the resettlement of the Nubian people?

AA: Such laws tackle thorny issues and therefore require broad social consensus and certain political conditions. Not passing laws in a certain time does not contravene the constitution. It's better to wait if a piece of legislation does not enjoy social consensus.

AN: What is the chamber's legislative agenda like in the next round?

AA: There are a number of major laws that will be looked at. These included one on the rights of people with special needs, another on regulating the operation of press and media, the criminal procedures law, the customer protection law, the municipalities law, the labour law, the syndicates and labour unions law, the youth law and others.

AN: How do you view the role of parliament in its third session, which will coincide with the next presidential elections?

AA: Under Article 142 of the constitution, 20 members or more can name a presidential candidate and the chamber's bylaws define the mechanism for doing so.

AN: How do you view Egypt's political landscape and political parties?

AA: A large number of political parties came to light following the revolutions of January 2011 and June 2013, many of which had limited experience in public work. This parliament helps those entities merge into single bigger blocs. We do not need many parties, we need effective parties.


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