Clear commitments

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 9 Jul 2024

The new government set out its policies in a statement before parliament this week, receiving the approval of most MPs.

Mustafa Madbouli

 

Most of Egypt’s political parties said they welcomed the government’s policy statement delivered by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli before parliament on Monday.

High-profile MPs and politicians interviewed by Al-Ahram Weekly and other media outlets said Madbouli’s insistence that there should be more active political life in the country in the coming stage was impressive.

“To achieve this, we will work to reinforce political stability, boost the participation of citizens in public life and decision-making, and support freedoms and rights,” Madbouli said, indicating that the government would hold periodical meetings with the National Dialogue’s Board of Trustees and representatives of the country’s political parties, civil society organisations, and syndicates to reinforce transparency and speed up the implementation of the new agenda of political openness.

Madbouli said that the government would work closely with the House of Representatives and the National Dialogue’s administration to issue a new law for local councils. “We want to build a consensus among all political forces to see local council elections held as soon as possible as a necessary step towards revitalising political life,” he said.

Newly-appointed Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mahmoud Fawzi stressed in a statement on Tuesday that the government wants to see greater political openness in the coming stage. “We want to overcome the challenges facing Egypt, and this will not be possible without more political openness and holding regular contacts with all political and civil forces,” Fawzi said.

Madbouli presented his newly-appointed government’s policy statement in parliament, as per the country’s constitution, highlighting his cabinet’s policy priorities.

Madbouli and his 30-member cabinet were sworn in by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on 3 July.

He said during his 45-minute speech to a full parliamentary session that his government would focus on four areas of work in the coming three years: safeguarding national security and foreign policy; enhancing the livelihoods and welfare of all Egyptians; building a competitive economy to attract investments; and achieving political stability and national unity.

Madbouli said that a 300-page report would outline the newly sworn-in government’s agenda for the next three years under the slogan “Together We Are Building a Sustainable Future.”

“The report will be submitted to parliament so that MPs can discuss our programmes in detail,” Madbouli said.

He noted that the government is well aware of the challenges that lie ahead, however.

“These challenges are the result of global crises like the war in Ukraine and the war in Gaza, which have hit us hard in the form of soaring inflation and losing foreign exchange revenues from the Suez Canal,” Madbouli said, adding that “in spite of these challenges, we will be working hard to overcome them and open a new page between citizens and local administrations.”

Madbouli vowed that his new cabinet would spare no efforts to end the power outages that have been taking place in Egypt within the first six months of its tenure.

“We will also continue our efforts to supervise retail markets and control inflation, whose rates saw a drop over the last two months,” he said.

Madbouli’s speech mainly focused on economic issues. In its first year in office, Madbouli said the government would work to achieve an economic growth rate of 4.2 per cent and then an average of five per cent throughout the entire three-year period.

“At the same time, the private sector and foreign direct investments [FDI] will have an important role to play,” Madbouli said, noting that the government targets private investments to make up 60 to 65 per cent of total investments by 2030 and for FDIs to increase by 14 per cent each year.

Madbouli highlighted that the government aims to increase the contributions of the industrial, agricultural, communications and information technology sectors to account for 38 per cent of GDP by the end of fiscal year 2026-27.

“As for tourism, the government wants to increase tourism numbers to 30 million by 2028, roughly twice the current figure,” Madbouli said, also indicating that the government targets to boost exports by 15 per cent every year.

On Monday, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi decided that Madbouli should also have the responsibility of minister for administrative reform.

Parliamentary Speaker Hanafi Gebali said an ad hoc committee had been formed to review Madbouli’s policy statement and prepare a report on it.

“The 42-member committee, headed by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Saadeddin, includes the chairpersons of 25 parliamentary committees, representatives from political parties, plus independent and opposition MPs,” Gebali said, indicating that “the report should be complete within 10 days, in line with Article 126 of parliament’s internal bylaws.”

Gebali said that the House of Representatives will meet again on 21 July to discuss the report on the government’s policy statement in a plenary session.

“At the end of the debate, the government will face a vote of confidence in line with Article 146 of the constitution, which stipulates that a newly appointed prime minister must deliver a policy statement before parliament, after which MPs should vote on it in a process that ends within 30 days of the formation of the government,” he said.

The ad hoc committee will hold its first meeting on Wednesday afternoon, with Saadeddin indicating that daily meetings will be held and that all cabinet ministers will be summoned to answer MPs’ questions and explain how they will ensure that the policy statement’s objectives can be transformed into real policies on the ground.

“The MPs’ comments and ministers’ explanations will be used as part of the report, which parliament will discuss. It will then decide whether to give the new government a vote of confidence,” Saadeddin said.

Atef Al-Meghawri, head of the parliamentary group of the leftist Tagammu Party, told the Weekly that he was impressed by what Madbouli had said about the government’s policy of encouraging active political participation in the coming three years.

“For us, the way to achieve this is to implement the National Dialogue’s agenda of political reforms, including amending laws regulating the performance of political parties, the exercise of political rights, parliamentary elections, and pretrial detention to create greater freedoms and rights,” Al-Meghawri said.

He described Madbouli’s policy statement as generally “decorative, full of rhetoric, and devoid of practical measures,” however.

Ihab Al-Tamawi, deputy chairman of the House’s Legislative and Constitutional Affairs Committee, said it was a progressive step from Madbouli to declare his government’s commitment to political openness and reform.

Bassel Adel, a former MP and head of the liberal group, said that Madbouli’s policy statement sent out a message of optimism.

“It emerges as most Egyptians feel that the country is at last getting out of a two-year economic crisis and inflation rates are coming under control.”  

“The implementation of the political, economic, and social reforms recommended by the National Dialogue could take some time, but this is not a problem as long as the prime minister has announced clear commitments and his cabinet will be held accountable for these, including specific figures and timelines,” Adel said.


* A version of this article appears in print in the 11 July, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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