Egypt spent around $400 billion in the past 7 years 'to get out of the poverty maze': Sisi

Ahram Online , Wednesday 12 Jan 2022

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi told a World Youth Forum panel on Tuesday that poverty steers states to “mazes” that could lead to terrorism and extremism, adding that the state spent around $400 billion “to get out of the poverty maze.”

El-Sisi at WYF
A still photo of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi speaking during a session titled Developmental Initiatives Confronting Poverty in the third day of the World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh on Wednesday

During a session titled ‘Developmental Initiatives Confronting Poverty’, El-Sisi said that such a maze of underdevelopment and ignorance is “difficult to exit”, adding that it was a top priority since he assumed power to eradicate poverty. 

“In 2011, Egypt was on the verge of collapse. Even when elections were held, people couldn’t withstand for a year the leadership that was elected,” he said, in reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood group. 

“During the past 7 years, the state spent more than EGP 6 trillion (About $400 billion) to get out of the poverty maze,” he said.

“Poverty destroys the present and future, leading to terrorism, extremism, and even revolutions.” 

According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), 29.7 percent of the population — 30 million citizens — were below the poverty line in FY2019/20.

El-Sisi also tackled the state’s Decent Life Initiative, which comprises a series of countryside-focused national infrastructure projects to develop the country’s poorest villages. 

The 2019-launched initiative aims to improve the standards of living, infrastructure, and services of 60 percent of Egypt’s 102-million population, who live in 4,658 villages across the country.

The initiative aims to establish infrastructure, including networks for clean water, sewage, electricity, gas, and communications. It also includes awareness and training programmes for citizens in rural areas and will provide village-based jobs that empower inhabitants, including female-headed households, and funding for micro and medium-sized projects.

He said the initiative is “one step of a thousand” implemented by the state to combat poverty. 

“The initiative and what we do in Egypt is only one step of a thousand that we will still do. This is not a talk of moral support, it is an assessment of a real situation and state,” he said.

El-Sisi also discussed the country’s 2016 economic reform programme, which was a subject of controversy due to the public’s fear of the harsh austerity measures. 

“I said the reforms would be applied and people would be able to withstand it. If we didn’t implement it [back then], we would have faced a major crisis now during the pandemic,” he said. 

In implementation since 2016, the first phase of the country’s reform programme included the floatation of the Egyptian pound, lifting nearly all fuel subsidies, implementing a value-added tax, and raising the prices of electricity and transportation.

The IMF-backed measures of the first phase, which concluded in November 2019, helped Egypt secure a needed $12 billion loan from the global lender. 

Egypt said its economic reform programme has helped cushion the negative repercussions of the coronavirus crisis.

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