Diaa El-Din Dawoud (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Four political parties – the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party, Modern Egypt, El-Tagammu and Al-Adl – announced they will vote against the 2021/22 government-drafted budget, which is currently under discussion in the House of Representatives.
Ihab Mansour, the head of the parliamentary group of the Egyptian Socialist Democratic Party, said they reject the 2021/22 budget because it comes at the expense of poor people and exacerbates the country's debt problem.
"Total allocations directed to subsidies and social protection programmes stand at EGP 321 billion in the new 2021/22 budget, an amount which is less by EGP 5 billion from that of last year," said Mansour.
Mansour complained that EGP 19 billion allocated to the Takaful and Karama cash subsidy programme did not change from last year even though the “number of people under the poverty line increased to as high as 30 million," said Mansour.
Mansour also warned that Egypt's public debts are ballooning all the time. "An amount of EGP 1.1 trillion in the new budget will go to footing the bill of debts, not to mention that the government plans to borrow EGP 1.6 trillion in the new fiscal year, up by EGP 78.8 billion from last year," said Mansour, advising that there should be strict controls on foreign borrowing, in addition to cutting public expenses and rationalising government spending.
Atef El-Meghawry, the head of the parliamentary group of the leftist Tagammu party, also announced the party will vote "no" on the new budget.
El-Meghawry complained that Egypt's economic reform programme has done a lot of damage to social equality, saying "This programme has discriminated against poor citizens as it has stripped them of many social benefits, including subsidies, and left them victims to high inflation rates.”
Hesham Helal, the head of the parliamentary group of Modern Egypt party, and Abdel-Moneim Imam, the head of the parliamentary group of the Al-Adl (Justice) party, have also declared their rejection of the new budget. They said the priorities of the new 2021/22 budget should be reordered to protect the poor from the dangers of high inflation and liberalisation.
Diaaeddin Dawoud, an independent MP, also complained that as much as EGP 1.1 trillion (46.5 per cent) in the new budget will go to servicing public debts. "This hurts the poor who usually foot the bill of these debts," said Dawoud.
Ahmed Farghal, deputy head of the House's economic committee, said "Egypt's economic reform programme was a big failure because it did a lot of damage to poor citizens who burdened the high financial cost of this programme."
In response, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala El-Said told MPs on Monday that public investments and social equality allocations in the last few years have cut the poverty rate in Egypt by three per cent. "Studies conducted by international institutions show that the quality of life in Egypt, particularly in terms of health and education services, has improved in recent years," said El-Said.
El-Said said the first part of Egypt's economic reform programme was implemented between 2016 and 2019, and it was a big success in monetary and fiscal terms," said El-Said, adding that "We are currently implementing a three-year structural reforms programme that focuses on achieving sustainable development, particularly in the sectors of industry, agriculture, telecommunications and information technology," said El-Said.