Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi has said that the military is only overseeing the implementation of the country's national development projects and that all companies working on such projects are civilian, addressing a recent topic of debate about the army's involvement in the economy.
"The role of the army in such projects, if any, is a supervisory and management role," El-Sisi said Sunday in comments broadcast live on TV.
The military, El-Sisi said, is mainly seeking to ensure commitment to deadlines set for key projects pursuant to the country's strategic development plans.
"We wanted to have one supervisory authority to ensure [projects] are achieved by certain times."
The military’s economic activities appear to have expanded over the past years, varying from supplying food commodities, producing various goods and carrying out construction projects.
El-Sisi has raised the topic of the army's perceived influence over the economy several times before. He said last year that the military's economic activity makes up only around 2-3 percent of the country's gross domestic products, dismissing speculation that the armed forces control as much as half of the economy.
El-Sisi was speaking Sunday as he sat among the audience attending a ceremony in the Suez Canal city of Ismailia to inaugurate a number of national development projects in the canal cities and the border Sinai region, including mega tunnels under the Suez Canal.
Egypt hopes the projects will boost growth, offer job opportunities for youth and help combat militancy, mainly based in the northern part of the Sinai.
El-Sisi said that security and stability are key for Egypt's development and that only "hard work and patience," not protests, can drive the country forward.
"If protests could build Egypt, I would go down with Egyptians on the streets days and night," he told the gathering.
He said that Egyptians have the awareness to weather tough economic reforms that the government has embarked on since 2016 and that they can endure further.
The measures, which have strained the budgets of millions of Egyptians, include a sharp currency devaluation, deep cuts in energy subsidies and the introduction of a value-added tax.
"As Egyptians brought change in January and on 30 June, they can bring change for a third and fourth time… if they don't accept the current situation," El-Sisi said, refereing to the 2011 popular uprising and the June 2013 mass protests that led to the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.
Speaking of what he referred to as a false image of Egypt's human rights record, El-Sisi said that real human rights are about offering Egyptians a decent life.
"Rights are about allowing people to live, rights are about finding job opportunities for people and their kids, rights are about proper healthcare, rights are about quality education," he said.