Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi delivers a speech to mark Prophet Mohammed's birth anniversary, Cairo, Egypt, December 8, 2016
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said on Thursday the economic reforms his administration has recently adopted were inevitable, and that a recent crippling devaluation of the country's currency won't last long.
In a speech marking the Prophet Mohammed's birthday this month, El-Sisi said "there was no other choice" to the recent unpopular economic measures, which have resulted in steep price hikes and sparked anger among average Egyptians.
Egypt's slump in foreign reserves and its widening budget deficit have pushed the country to launch a series of economic reforms. Last month, the central bank floated the Egyptian pound against the US dollar and raised fuel prices. The value of the EGP has since fallen from 8.88 to around 18 EGP to the dollar. The government has also cut electricity subsidies and introduced a new value added tax.
El-Sisi predicts the dollar crisis "won't last long," saying "this is not [the dollar's] fair price." He stressed, nevertheless, that "it will take months until balance is achieved."
In the face of numerous economic woes, El-Sisi said his government is keen "to not increase the burden on the low-income class" and to keep price hikes at bay.
He said prices of basic commodities will remain the same for at least six months, stressing that a bread subsidy programme that feeds tens of millions "won't be touched."
On social issues, the president said the Egypt is "in dire need of renewing religious discourse and correcting accumulated misconceptions [about Islam] which have evolved here over time."
El-Sisi has repeatedly called for a new Muslim religious discourse over the past two years, making the fight against extremism a priority.
In Thursday's speech, he said religious extremism poses a "huge intellectual battle" in addition to the "security and military measures [needed] to combat terrorism."