Present challenges in Egypt greater than those facing any previous government: Sisi

Ahram Online , Thursday 21 Apr 2022

The current challenges in Egypt are greater than on any previous government, and we are working on a plan we can all contribute to, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Thursday.

President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi during his meeting with a group of journalists and media professionals on Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Egyptian Presidency)

El-Sisi's remarks came after a meeting on Thursday with a group of journalists and media professionals as part of an open dialogue to discuss various issues of public interest.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the president’s inspection tour of Toshka during the start of the wheat harvest season.

Economic reform vs crises

El-Sisi stressed that Egypt’s economic reform programme has made the state more capable of facing economic crises.

Without the reform plan, the situation would have been more difficult during the coronavirus crisis.

For over 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic, Egypt’s macroeconomic indicators have been proving its resilience despite the severe impact the pandemic has resulted in, with expectation for the country’s economy to approach its pre-pandemic levels during the current FY 2021-22 (ending in June) with a projected 5.5 per cent in real GDP growth, the World Bank’s Egypt Economic Monitor report said.

Egypt’s GDP is expected to reach LE7.1 trillion in the current FY 2021-22, targeting a real GDP growth rate of 5.6 per cent, compared to 3.3 per cent recorded in FY 2020-21, according to the Ministry of Finance.

However, the president affirmed that the challenges now facing Egypt are greater than those of any previous government and “we are working on a plan in which we all [can] contribute [to].”

Speaking on the economic repercussions of these challenges, he said, “I did not withhold any information from the Egyptian people... I was not flattering and I was frank and direct.”

El-Sisi indicated that Egypt’s population growth must be controlled so that citizens can be economically supported.

Economic growth in Egypt has not kept track with population growth rates, so the government has sought to reduce the gap between the two, El-Sisi said, adding, “We are racing against time to reduce the gap between the country's economic growth and population growth.”

Egypt’s population – which currently stands at 103 million people – is expected to reach 192 million people in 2052 with the current growth rates, and 143 million people in the same period in case of intensifying comprehensive state efforts to reduce the fertility rate, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS).

The president stressed that if Egypt is not able to control population growth, “we will not feel any economic improvement.”

Economic growth rates were positive even during the pandemic, El-Sisi said, commenting, “even with a major crisis that had a negative impact on the whole world, we were, thanks to God and thanks to Egyptians’ efforts, able to achieve an economic growth rate of 3.2 and 3.8 percent.”

The president said that “we incurred a severe economic bill when we launched the reform plan” in November 2016.

In 2016, Egypt was given an IMF loan worth $12 billion for its economic reform programme – which included the floatation of the Egyptian pound, lifting nearly all fuel subsidies, implementing of a value-added tax, and raising the prices of electricity and transportation – that concluded in 2019.

The growth rate reached nine percent in the first quarter of this year, El-Sisi added, saying, “if we had continued in this situation and the pandemic began to subside, our situation would have been entirely different, but unfortunately this has not happened.”

The president was referring to the Ukrainian-Russian crisis’ economic impacts on Egypt in terms of wheat imports, petroleum prices and tourism.

He noted that the Egyptian economy “has been negatively affected” by the repercussions of the coronavirus and Ukraine crises, but it has managed to withstand and was able to absorb the shocks and achieved an appropriate growth rate.

Moreover, the president stressed the success of providing commodities in the markets, and concerning the strategic reserves he said, "we have been keen to have at least a reserve sufficient for 6 months, and this started from 2017 and have allocated financial resources to meet potential challenges”.

The state deals with all cases from a comprehensive perspective, unlike in the past when the focus was on specific files only, he noted.

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