Editorial: Fresh start for Egypt

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 2 Apr 2024

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi started his new, six-year term on Tuesday by acknowledging that many challenges lie ahead on the local and regional levels.

 

In the next few years, the president pledged to confront those challenges with the determination and courage that have been the trademarks of his reign since he first took office nearly 10 years ago.

In his speech, delivered from the jewel of his ambitious development project, the New Administrative Capital, the president gave credit to those who deserved it the most: the resilient Egyptian people who have navigated unprecedented instability and economic hardship since 2014. Such endurance and understanding of the difficult conditions the country went through in recent years, and deep trust in the president’s intentions and abilities, are the key factors that will ensure Al-Sisi’s success in his new term.

Egypt’s stability, security and territorial integrity will remain top priorities, and a precondition for the success of all other urgently needed reforms. In the few years since the president took office, Egypt has managed to defeat a range of terrorist organisations, starting with the Muslim Brotherhood who rejected the people’s decision to oust them on 30 June, 2013, openly threatening to perpetuate the country’s disintegration into a civil war, together with the Islamic State and other groups that, using the chaos that reigned between 2011 and 2014, aimed to turn Sinai into a safe haven.

Eliminating terrorist threats remains high on the president’s agenda, and part of that is the awareness that the terrorists will never give up their attempt to achieve their goals. The Egyptian people paid dearly for their victory against terrorism, with hundreds of army and police personnel who must be remembered and honoured, martyred to save the nation.

The war against terror and preventing Egypt from disintegrating into the kind of chaos that has reigned in almost every other neighbouring country has had to be accompanied by a comprehensive economic reform plan, dealing with the many chronic problems that had prevented the country from reaching the status it deserves as a leading regional power.

All experts agreed that Egypt was on the right track after carrying out several unprecedentedly ambitious national megaprojects, renewing its infrastructure in order to be able to attract investments. However, exceptional circumstances over the past four years, starting with Covid-19, the two-year-old war between Russia and Ukraine, and most recently the ongoing Israeli revenge war against the Palestinian people in Gaza, made a negative impact on the country’s economy. It became extremely difficult for most Egyptians to cope with increasing economic pressures, topped with skyrocketing prices and shortages in basic commodities.

The president and his government took steps to ease the strain of economic difficulties on the vast majority of the poor and the middle class. However, it was again confidence in president Al-Sisi’s goals, his determination to rebuild Egypt for future generations and the understanding that the circumstances Egypt faced were exceptional that convinced key Arab nations, topped with the United Arab Emirates, to provide support, along with international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the European Union.

As a result, President Al-Sisi started his third term with fresh hope that Egypt could be back on the right track. In his speech, the president promised to continue working on his ambitious agenda and targets after the latest economic crisis Egypt faced eased.  Top priorities will be continuing to work on improving the country’s infrastructure as well as huge investments in manufacturing, green energy, tourism, trade, logistics, and aviation.

Recognising the immediate needs of the vast majority of Egyptians, he also pledged to improve education and health services. In next year’s budget, recently submitted to parliament, the government has raised the share of health and education by over 30 per cent.

Equally important, the president confirmed his commitment to genuine political reforms in the next six years. Many of those reforms have been delayed by the need to confront terrorism and to work on urgently needed economic reforms. Now Egyptians will be looking forward to a more vibrant political life as we approach parliamentary elections late next year.

On the regional level, the president again stressed the need to work on restoring stability and security in neighbouring countries that have been suffering from internal conflicts and civil wars for over 10 years. Without reaching agreed settlements among the warring factions in Libya and Sudan, the entire region will remain in danger. Those efforts should be led by the Libyan and Sudanese people themselves, supported by regional and international partners.

Similarly, Israel’s war against the people in Gaza should have stopped many months ago, and it is a stain on any international commitment to human rights. President Al-Sisi will spare no effort to help stop the war, flood Gaza with humanitarian aid, rebuilding the devastated narrow strip and working on a path that will allow us to reach permanent peace by establishing an independent Palestinian state.

Indeed, many challenges lie ahead for President Al-Sisi in the coming six years. Yet, judging by his record and the popularity he still enjoys among the Egyptian people reflected in broad support in the election, we can be sure that he is on the right track.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 4 April, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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