“We will remain supportive of those people in their daily struggle,” Al-Sisi said in his speech during the celebrations of the 71st Police Day at the Police Academy in New Cairo, which is recognised annually on 25 January to commemorate police heroism in the struggle against British occupation on that day in 1952.
The president stressed that the economic difficulties that the country is facing are the result of the consequences of a global crisis, noting that the world’s largest and most advanced economies are also suffering in ways not seen since the Great Depression and the two world wars.
He said that the recent developments, including the pandemic and Russia-Ukraine war, have not occurred in decades, heralding major changes at the international geopolitical and economic levels.
Given that Egypt is part of the global economy, Al-Sisi says, it is logical that it experiences the negative effects of such a global crisis.
Al-Sisi indicated that the country is currently working on mitigating the repercussions of these global crises, saying: “My directives to the government were to shoulder as much as possible the bulkiest part of the burdens and costs instead of the citizens and not to burden the citizens.”
He stated that the government is working on providing for their families’ needs in ways that help them confront hikes in prices, emphasising that it remains steadfast in its commitment to help these people in a way that does not and will not change.
Moreover, the president tackled the claims blaming the economic difficulties locally on domestic policies implemented by the state, describing them as “misleading”.
He stressed that the major development projects carried out by the state throughout the past years — such as the New Suez Canal, the new electrical power plants and the nationwide roads — were not for show, but were rather necessary to establish the investment environment and infrastructure to achieve comprehensive economic development that raises the standard of living of all people.
These national projects were a result of economic necessity and not a luxury or misjudgement, the president said, adding that each project has its own economic and scientific justifications, not political ones.
Al-Sisi further explained that the problem that faced the country was that it was “forced to do everything at once… we did not have the luxury to give priority to certain projects while postponing others for a later time.”
“All files needed efforts and real confrontation … it was not a luxury or misevaluation,” he said, adding that expending so much effort in seven years had been a burden on the state.
If these projects had not been implemented for the time being or had been delayed for the coming years, Al-Sisi said, their cost would have increased fourfold or fivefold.
The reality of the country’s economy and the growth rate of its population makes it incumbent on us to take “huge” developmental leaps in a short time, he said, adding “we are in a race against time to overcome the dangers and repercussions of the population explosion.”
On the road and infrastructure projects, Al-Sisi said that they were necessary to meet the demands of a growing population and development goals, especially in light of the increase in the country’s population by 14 million in the last seven years and by 20 million since 2011.
“No one asks whether people would have been able to move if the road network had not been developed.”
Al-Sisi elaborated that a country that has such an important geographic location like Egypt cannot overlook developing its roads and ports, highlighting that 17-18 per cent of international trade passes through its ports.
Concerning the development of the Suez Canal, he explained that it currently brings in $8 billion in revenues based on last year’s figures, up from its highest ever recorded revenues of $4.5 billion.
“Was it possible not to develop the canal and not to keep pace with the development in the international trade movement?” said Al-Sisi.
The country targets to achieve revenues from its international waterway of up to $10-12 billion annually, he stressed.
In developing its energy sector, Egypt did not aim to establish new power stations as much as renew the existing energy grid and establish a new network as the country seeks to become a regional hub for energy.
Al-Sisi said that to reach such a goal the energy networks should be on par with developed networks in Europe. “Hence, upgrading these networks was not done for show but was a matter of sheer necessity.”
“It is impossible to embark on the path of modern industrialisation and massive export without having the necessary elements to achieve this, including cities, roads, a transportation network, technology, electricity, water, and sanitation.”
“Over the past years, Egypt lacked enough of these elements to achieve the progress and prosperity of the people,” he said.
The president also tackled the shortage of the US dollars in the economy, noting that the dollar gap is not a new issue, but a recurring pattern that results from the country’s weak production and export capabilities as well as from its increasing demand for dollar-goods and services.
“Boosting production and export is a pivotal issue for Egypt. We know that, and we are sparing no effort as we work to achieve that aim,” said Al-Sisi.
Days earlier, during a visit to the Military Academy last Thursday, Al-Sisi urged Egyptians not to feel scared or worried, affirming that they had faced tougher challenges in the past and overcome them. He called upon Egyptians — both men and women — to unite and never to give ear to rumours.
“There was a big problem in the US dollar in the past three months. Still, we promised that within two months the problem of accumulated goods will be solved. Currently, the problem has almost been resolved and we do not have a problem in US dollars,” said Al-Sisi, referring to Egypt’s import backlog whereby tons of goods were held at Egyptian ports due to the shortage in US dollars. A day earlier, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli stated that the import backlog was almost cleared.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 January, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly