Egypt fighting a ‘vicious war’ alone, Sisi says on Police Day

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said Egypt is fighting a war against terrorism and for social and economic development

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi praised and honored on Tuesday policemen killed in recent years in a celebration marking Police Day, saying that Egypt is “fighting a vicious war and the whole world knows that it is fighting it alone.”

El-Sisi said Egypt has been fighting a 40-month war fought by “men who took the responsibility to protect Egyptians,” referring to policemen.

The president called on the Egyptian people to support the police and all state institutions. El-Sisi warned that the war against the country aims to divide it, saying that there were attempts in 2011 to create a division between the police and army and between the people and the army.

The state has recently seized $400 million worth of explosives, the president said, implying that a lot of money has been funneled to terrorist groups.

Egypt has been battling a militant insurgency in North Sinai, which has killed hundreds of security forces in recent years. Attacks have reached further than Northern Sinai, and have also occurred in the capital city.

In December, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb in a church attached to Cairo’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral, in an attack that killed 28 civilians.

In Tuesday’s remarks, El-Sisi said he had received a phone call from recently inaugurated US President Donald Trump, who asked about the state of Egypt’s economy.

“I told him that for 40 months we have been fighting alone,” El-Sisi said.

In a phone conversation on Monday the two presidents discussed the war against terrorism, an Egyptian presidential spokesman announced. The spokesman said that Trump told El-Sisi his administration is committed to maintaining US annual military aid to Egypt.

Egypt receives $1.3 billion in military aid from the US every year.

The Egyptian president described the economic development as another uphill battle the country is fighting.

El-Sisi said that considering Egypt’s population growth over the past 60 years, which he said has multiplied by four times since the fifties, economic development should keep up.

The president complained of high divorce rates in Egypt, which he said reach 40% in the first five years of marriage. He blamed these rates for problems with child negligence and high unemployment rates.

“There is no reform without pain,” El-Sisi said on Tuesday, defending an economic reform plan which Egypt has embarked on since 2014.

Egypt has introduced a number of recent fiscal reforms, including subsidy cuts and the introduction of new taxes, aimed at stemming a growing budget deficit. Last November, the central bank freely floated the Egyptian pound with the aim of alleviating a dollar shortage.

El-Sisi has promised that the state would work to protect the “weakest” sectors of society from the possible negative impact of these reforms.

Egypt’s annual headline inflation reached an eight-year high of 24.3 percent in December.

“In this [economic reform] plan we need more security and safety and that puts responsibility on the police,” El-Sisi said.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/256781.aspx

Egypt’s Sisi talks reform, calls for protest, and the army’s role in lengthy interview

Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi sat for an interview published on Saturday with the chief editors of three state-owned newspapers to talk about government reform measures, the army’s role in reform and the fight against terrorism, as well as the media and recent calls for protests.
This is the second interview El-Sisi has given with the chief editors of Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhoreya newspapers in less than two months. A second part of the interview will be published on Sunday.
Reform measures, IMF loan and investment
El-Sisi first spoke of how he sees the overall state of Egypt, saying the country is recuperating from a long and chronic disease.
“We are in the bottleneck and we are on our way out, but if we want to get out we have to take tough decisions, tolerate these decisions, be patient and the results will be great for the upcoming days and the upcoming generations,” he said.
The president added that he has known the cure for Egypt’s “chronic disease” since long before he was elected president.
He stated that reform measures are hard but “inevitable to save the economic situation,” and that no one before him had taken the necessary actions that should have been put into effect long ago.
“I am the one responsible for [this] country, its protection, its future and the future of its sons. If I was just looking for my own interest, there are many things I would not have done,” the president said.
Egypt, which relies heavily on imports to support its population of over 91 million, has been suffering from an acute shortage of US currency in the wake of the 2011 uprising, which was followed by political and security unrest that turned away tourists and foreign investors, two major sources of hard currency.
The country recently reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a $12 billion loan over three years.
On the IMF loan, El-Sisi said the country presented its previously drafted reform programme to the IMF, and that their acceptance of Egypt’s programme means the country is capable of paying back the loan.
The president added that a number of measures are being taken in anticipation of foreign investment in the country, which he says is expected to increase after Egypt takes the IMF loan.
These measures include revising and redrafting the investment law, as well as rehabilitating infrastructure.
El-Sisi stated that although the infrastructure rehabilitation project should take six to eight years to complete, it will be done by April 2018.
National projects
The president said that half-a-million feddans will be up for sale this month from the 1.5 million feddan agriculture project.
Any Egyptian youth can buy 10 feddans by instalment at a five percent interest rate, the president added.
On the new administrative capital currently under construction in New Cairo, El-Sisi said that it will be completed within five to six years, with the first stage done by 2018.
The army and terrorism
The president said that the army is playing a large role in the country’s development process, a role that will be scaled back once the infrastructure rehabilitation project is complete.
“[I want] to tell the Egyptian people that the Armed Forces are capable and qualified to protect Egypt against any threats to its safety and security… and are capable of protecting Arab national security,” El-Sisi stated.
On Egypt’s recently acquired Mistral aircraft carriers from France, El-Sisi said Egypt has gas fields 200 kilometres away from its shores that will be protected using the Mistrals.
On the fight against Islamist militants in North Sinai, El-Sisi said the situation is improving and security efforts are ongoing.
Hundreds of security forces in North Sinai have been killed in attacks by Islamist militants since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.
Egyptian security forces say they have killed hundreds of militants in North Sinai during the same period.
“The war is long, terrorists are developing themselves, and we are developing our operations,” El-Sisi stated.
Calls for protests
The editors-in-chief asked President El-Sisi for his opinion on “anti-state groups calling for protests,” such as the protests being called for on 11 November – or 11/11 as dubbed in the media – over the country’s economic situation.
“Egyptians have more awareness than anyone can imagine … so all these efforts exercised by these [anti-state] elements and the people of evil are destined to fail,” El-Sisi said.
The Media
“There are some media that create a [certain] state that if left to accumulate will create frustration and an absence of hope, and no state or people can live without hope,” the president said.
El-Sisi said he did not want to speak of the media in an offensive manner, but that some TV channels and newspapers discuss some issues related to fuel and basic commodities in a way that is leading people to stockpile over fears of increases in price, and thus the country has to import more and spend more hard currency.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/245808/Egypt/Politics-/Egypt%E2%80%99s-Sisi-talks-reform,-calls-for-protest,-and-.aspx

Egypt’s Sisi: We do not support Ethiopian opposition, seek political solution in Syria

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said on Thursday that Egypt has not plotted against Ethiopia or supported the Ethiopian opposition.
“Our choice is cooperation and peace,” El-Sisi said in a speech that covered several issues during a military lecture held by the Egyptian armed forces in Cairo on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Ethiopian officials accused Egypt and Eritrea directly of supporting anti-government demonstrations by the Oromo ethnic group.
The Egyptian ministry of foreign affairs denied the allegations entirely.
“I reaffirm to our brothers in Ethiopia that we had two choices, either cooperation or confrontation, and we chose cooperation,” El-Sisi said, adding that Egypt’s values do not allow supporting any party or opposition outside Egyptian territory.
Egypt and Ethiopia witnessed tensions in recent years over the construction of Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam, a project which Cairo fears will negatively affect Egypt’s Nile water share. Addis Ababa maintains that the dam project, which Ethiopia needs to generate electricity, would not harm downstream countries.
Relations improved in recent months, particularly after Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan signed in September the final contracts for the long-awaited technical studies on the potential impact of the dam on downstream countries.
Shifting to Egypt’s policy towards Syria and the UN Security Council resolutions voted on earlier this week, the Egyptian President stated that Egyptian policy towards the conflict in Syria is independent.
“We looked to the French and Russian draft resolutions and voted on them because both draft resolutions called for a ceasefire and truce that will allow humanitarian aid to Syrian citizens,” he said
Reiterating the need for a political solution in Syria, El-Sisi demanded full respect for the Syrian people, the disarming of radical groups and the rebuilding of the Syrian state.
Egypt voted on Saturday for a French-drafted Saudi-backed resolution on Syria and also for a rival Russian proposal.
The French proposal called for an end to all fighting in Aleppo, while the Russian proposal called for a cease-fire. Both proposals failed to pass in the Security Council.
“Nobody can interfere in our strong relations with our brothers in the Gulf, but we have an independent policy that is keen on Arab national security,” Egypt’s president said.
The Saudi ambassador’s departure coincided with a notice from Saudi oil company ARAMCO informing the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation, Egypt’s state oil company, in early October that it would halt the supply of refined oil products to Egypt.
“Some observers believed that the decision to suspend oil shipments from Saudi Arabia was because of the UN Security Council votes; it is untrue,” El-Sisi said.
“The oil shipments used to come to Egypt according to a deal that was signed in April; we do not know the circumstances of the companies,” he added.
Egypt’s oil ministry has contracted other foreign suppliers including Kuwait to provide the country with its petroleum needs for October.
“We do not have any oil problem,” El-Sisi said.
“There are attempts to pressure us, but Egypt does not bow except for God,” he said, but did not provide further detail on such attempts.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/245732/Egypt/Politics-/Egypts-Sisi-We-do-not-support-Ethiopian-opposition.aspx

Sisi sets the stage for austerity measures

In his address at a youth leadership program on Monday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the main challenge Egypt faces is public acceptance of necessary austerity measures to fix the economy.
“The state cannot achieve its goals without working with the public,” Sisi said, questioning whether people are prepared to accept “harsh” measures. But, “Egyptians who love their country are capable of overcoming any challenges,” he added.
The president was speaking at a forum organized by the state’s Presidential Leadership Program, an eight-month initiative that seeks to prepare young people for leadership positions within the government.
Sisi was referring to an economic reform program the government plans to implement, the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper reported.
Egypt is currently in negotiations for a total of US$21 billion in financing, including $12 billion from the International Monetary Fund, and another $9 billion from other sources, including loans from the World Bank and African Development Bank. A delegation from the IMF arrived in Cairo this week to discuss conditions for a new economic program.
Although the Cabinet said talks have been ongoing with the IMF for three months, it did not explicitly tie the IMF loan to any particular reforms, alluding to government plans for the adoption of a Value Added Tax, the Civil Service Act, subsidy reforms, increasing exports and decreasing imports.
During his address, Sisi lamented “the transformation of the US dollar into a commodity” over the past five years, saying measures need to be taken to put an end to this phenomenon.
Sisi said Egyptians would soon be able to purchase US dollars at a set rate, promising “a lot of good news” in the days to come, and asserting that the government would not act against the will of the people.
The value of the Egyptian pound has been tumbling against the dollar on the black market for months, although it has steadied since the government confirmed it was in negotiations with the IMF. In the days before the announcement, black market rates approached LE13 per dollar, but have since settled at around LE12 to LE12.3 per dollar. The Central Bank of Egypt has however held its official exchange rate at LE8.78 to the dollar since March 16. Banks are allowed to resell dollars at LE8.88.

http://www.madamasr.com/news/economy/sisi-sets-stage-austerity-measures

Sisi speaks of Egypt’s role in regional conflict at UN General Assembly

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed Egypt’s role in fighting global terrorism and bringing peace to the Middle East in his address to the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Although this was also Sisi’s message to the UN in both 2014 and 2015, he stressed: “Terrorism is more widespread today, and it threatens all of humanity … It is the affliction of this age,” adding that Egypt would “continue, as always, to be a cornerstone of stability for the Middle East.”
Sisi went on to speak of conflict in Syria, Yemen, Libya, and Palestine/Israel.
“Bloodshed in Syria is no longer acceptable,” Sisi said, thanking Russia and the United States for supporting ceasefires during the five-year conflict.
He claimed Egypt is currently home to 500,000 Syrians who have fled their homeland, despite UN figures from July 2016 citing 120,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt. The privately owned Al-Watan news portal reported that the country is currently hosting around 131,000 Syrian refugees.
Sisi spoke of his hopes in resolving the conflict in Palestine-Israel. “Egypt will use its influence to realize peace and bring an end to Israeli occupation,” Sisi claimed, arguing that the realization of a Palestinian state would safeguard Israeli security and sovereignty.
As for Libya, Sisi asserted: “Egypt is striving to bring together different parties in this conflict, so as to establish a national unity government.” He didn’t mention Egyptian state support for Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the Libyan National Army based in the eastern Libyan city Tobruk, despite the UN’s criticism of the general taking control of several oil ports across Libya recently.
Sisi expressed Egypt’s support for negotiations in Yemen between rival parties, “in order to realize a lasting peace” and “guarantee the security of maritime navigation through the Bab al-Mandab Straits and the Red Sea,” which he added affects Egypt’s security directly. He didn’t mention Egypt’s support for the Saudi-led offensive on Shia Houthi rebels and their allies.
The President claimed Egypt would be at the heart of counterterrorism efforts in Africa, and is involved in several initiatives to resolve armed conflicts in Somalia, Burundi, and South Sudan.
He urged the UN to engage in international development projects and the countering of ideologies that promote terrorism in Africa, the Middle East and worldwide.
Speaking of domestic affairs briefly, Sisi mentioned infrastructural projects and major development initiatives, saying the citizenship rights of all Egyptians would be upheld.
The speech is in line with priorities raised by US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in their meetings with Sisi on the sidelines of the conference, in which they stressed the need for cooperation in tackling global terrorism.
Although Clinton reportedly directly addressed the imprisonment of US-Egyptian citizen Aya Hegazy, who has been in pre-trial detention for two years in Egypt, there has been little mention of widespread human rights abuses in Egypt more broadly at the conference.
United Nations General Assembly

http://www.madamasr.com/news/sisi-speaks-egypts-role-regional-conflict-un-general-assembly

Sisi: 2011 revolution negatively affected Egypt’s economy

Following recent talks concerning increases in electricity prices and Egypt’s initial US$12 billion deal with the International Monetary Fund, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a speech Saturday that the Egyptian economy has long suffered, given the country’s history with wars in the 1950s and 1960s.
During the inauguration of a petrochemical company in Alexandria, Sisi explained that terrorism and corruption have been additional burdens on the Egyptian economy.
“We did not start suffering from terrorism in the past two or three years. How many times has Egypt been hit hard by terrorism? How many times has it been attacked after attempts of recovery?” the president asked. “Terrorism is a tool used to harm the Egyptian state by weakening it.”
Sisi added that he is keen to confront corruption, but that it remains a major challenge to improving the Egyptian economy.
The president moved to explain that the 2011 revolution had as many detrimental effects on the economy as it did positive ones. Approximately 900,000 state employees joined the bureaucracy following the revolution after demands and protests to obtain fixed contracts, he pointed out.
“When we raise annual salaries from LE90 billion to LE228 billion now, how is this going to affect the economy?” he asked.
He also added that public debt has skyrocketed from LE800 billion in 2011 to LE3.2 trillion today, amounting to 97 percent of Egypt’s GDP.
Commenting on rising electricity prices, Sisi said that the new hikes consist of a LE1.5 increase for consumers for every 50 kilowatts, while the state will continue to subsidize 28LE per 50 kilowatts. The government has invested LE400 billion to support the country’s electricity network, he added.
“When the government worked on raising the minimum wage, you said this is too little. But when we raise electricity prices or metro tickets, you say this is too much. Do your pounds have a value and our pounds don’t?” he asked. “Do you know the real economic cost for a metro ticket? Not even LE10. The last increase in metro tickets was 12 years ago.”
Sisi also blamed previous governments for not having enough courage to take serious measures toward lifting subsidies. “They feared public reaction, but I took these decisions without hesitation.”
Sisi referred to a decision by late President Anwar El-Sadat to lift food subsidies in 1977 that was later overturned due to widespread rioting, saying, “Reforms have been postponed since then due to fears of the public opinion reaction.”

“But Egyptians will stand by me, only for the sake of Egypt,” the president declared.

http://www.madamasr.com/news/sisi-2011-revolution-negatively-affected-egypts-economy

Sisi: State development projects could solve migration pressures

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi argued state-led development projects could resolve irregular migration pressures, in an address that was broadcast to the nation on Monday.
The president began his address with a moment of silence for those who drowned when a boat carrying up to 600 people capsized on route from Egypt to the southern coast of Europe.
“There is no justification or excuse for those who were lost, over 160 people from Egypt and beyond. This is an issue we need to confront with all our strength,” Sisi stated in his speech from Alexandria, adding that the Egyptian state and its citizenry must address migration issues.
After stating that he personally accepts responsibility for every victim, the president outlined several proposals in line with the state’s already existing economic and social policies, which focused on national housing projects.
“The state not only needs to protect its border and to prevent this sort of thing,” Sisi stated, referring to the capsized boat, “but we also need, as a society, to ensure that this does not occur again.”
“Egypt does not want to be a state of refugees,” he added. “But we have to work and work and work to change the reality that we are living in.”
Sisi stressed the importance of job opportunities at aquaculture farms in Port Said, Borollos and Kafr al-Sheikh, cities that often serve as launching sites for migrants traveling to Europe, and were part of a February 2016 agreement between Egypt and Switzerland — the Sustainable Transformation of Egypt’s Aquaculture Market System (STREAMS) project — to regiment labor and production markets with an investment of 2 million Swiss francs.
“Why should we leave our country? Are there no job opportunities?” Sisi asked. “Our country needs us first and foremost.”
The president championed national development projects as remedies for migratory pressures, focusing on the Bashayer al-Kheir (“Good Omens”) joint-housing development project, which is intended to house 1,600 families from Alexandria’s Gheit al-Enab informal housing quarter. Sisi stated that the project has brought “joy and happiness” to low-income families, but did not address the cost of the housing units or financing terms.
Alexandria’s low-income residents were markedly absent from the conference hall, where the assembled audience consisted of government ministers, generals and military personnel in camouflage uniforms.
Sisi also claimed that another 1,500 housing units are nearing completion in Dabaa, where the government plans to build a nuclear power plant with Russian technical and financial assistance in the form of US$25 billion in loans.
Turning toward future development projects, Sisi urged further collaboration between local banks, businesses, the Armed Forces, municipal authorites and citizens, under the auspices of national development funds, such as the Tahya Masr (Long Live Egypt) fund.
Sisi focussed this capital investment on a population already bearing the burden of austerity measures, asking Egyptians to donate small sums of money to fund national projects.
“I don’t know how you do this. But the spare change — that is the fifty piasters and the one pounds from your transactions — can be placed in such funds,” he said. “We are talking about the transactions of 20 or 30 million people. If everybody donates, we will collect LE10 or 12 million,” a sum the president stated could be deposited in interest-yielding accounts.
“Please, please. I want this money. I don’t know how to take it, but we want to put it away,” Sisi later stated, invoking the benefit of future generations and citing a passage from the Quran that addresses almsgiving.
Sisi also stated that he hopes to eliminate Hepatitis C from Egypt, which has the highest rate of incidence in the world, in the next couple of years. Pointing to current progress, the president asserted that the “Health Ministry no longer has waiting lines for people seeking treatment.”
In September 2015, the Egyptian government published a draft law criminalizing human trafficking that would impose punitive measures on perpetrators, including fines and imprisonment. The state has systematically silenced those critical of state-sanctioned policies, contributing to worsening political and economic conditions, which has resulted in Egyptians being among the top 10 nationalities crossing the central Mediterranean, according to UNHCR data.

http://www.madamasr.com/news/sisi-state-development-projects-could-solve-migration-pressures

Egypt cannot afford to postpone tough economic reforms: Sisi

There is no time to postpone economic reforms that should have been put in place years ago, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said in a lengthy, three-part interview with the editors in chief of Egypt’s state-owned newspapers.
“The fighter does not fight alone; his support system – the people – should fight with him. He will continue fighting as long as his people support him, and if they let go, he will not be able to fight,” El-Sisi said in part two of the interview, where he spoke about domestic affairs, his economic vision, and harsh economic measures set to be put in place.
The first part of the interview, published on Monday, tackled Egypt’s international relations as well as regional developments in the Middle East, while the third part, set to be published on Tuesday, will involve a discussion on freedoms, human rights, and an expected presidential pardon for 300 detainees in the coming days.
Economic reform
El-Sisi said that in the past, necessary economic reforms were partially implemented, but that the country’s current economic situation would not allow for such an approach.
“We do not want the measures for reform to be more difficult if adopted later,” he said.
This is not the first time El-Sisi has stressed on the inevitability of the “tough” measures that need to be adopted to deal with the crippling economic conditions facing the country.
El-Sisi said two weeks ago that “all the tough decisions that [previous leaders] have hesitated to take over the past years… I will not hesitate for a second to take.”
On 11 August, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it had reached a preliminary financing accord with Egypt, though it still needs to be approved by the fund’s executive board, which is expected to consider the request in the coming weeks.
El-Sisi said that there needs to be a distinction between Egypt’s economic reform programme and the IMF accord, elaborating that it was not acceptable for Egypt to have a “guardian” that dictates how the country should go about improving its economic situation.
Minister of finance Amr El-Garhy had previously said that the government has implemented a reform programme since 2014 that include curbing a huge budget deficit (ranging between 11 and 13 percent over the past six years) and growing public debt, stimulating growth and creating more jobs to alleviate unemployment and poverty rates and increase national income.
Head of IMF mission to Egypt Chris Jarvis hailed the measures and said the reform programme “aims to improve the functioning of the foreign exchange markets, bring down the budget deficit and government debt, and to raise growth and create jobs, especially for women and young people. It also aims to strengthen the social safety net to protect the vulnerable during the process of adjustment.”

“What happened with the IMF is a normal procedure that takes place worldwide. We presented our programme and they had nothing to add to it. We are able to put forward a program and determine the difficult measures we should take. The complexities of the current economic situation are not absent from us. The issue is whether we want to undertake measures of reform or not. Do we want reform or not?”
An IMF delegation had visited Egypt to discuss supporting the country’s economic reforms through a three-year extended fund facility (EFF) programme worth some $12 billion (SDR 8.5966 billion, or 422 percent of Egypt’s quota).
El-Sisi spoke about domestic debt rising from EGP 800 billion to EGP 2.3 trillion, or a rate of 97 percent of GDP. In a previous speech, he said that this was due to salaries rising from EGP 80 billion annually before the 2011 revolution to EGP 228 billion after the uprising.
“We want to limit the budget deficit and increase our resources in agriculture and industry, as well as attract investments. The general atmosphere is suitable in terms of providing infrastructure,” El-Sisi said.
Electricity tariffs
El-Sisi defended the new tariffs for household consumers as part of the government’s plan to phase out energy subsidies, saying that the subsidy has not been lifted for 30 million people, except for those whose consumption exceed 1,000 KW-h.
“There was a suggestion that all subsidies on the first three brackets [consumption from zero to 350 KW-h] be lifted and be endured on the rest of the consumers of the other brackets, but this suggestion was refused because it would create a burden on the middle class,” El-Sisi said.
He added that following the introduction of the new tariffs, he instructed his aides to present a report on increases in home electricity bills.
In August, Egypt’s electricity minister Mohamed Shaker introduced new monthly tariffs for household brackets, with a first tile witnessing the highest increase, representing more than 46 percent, though it will still be the most subsidised, according to the minister.
Social security measures
El-Sisi said that the government is currently studying the possibility of undertaking measures to establish a balance between social classes and reduce strains on middle class and low-income citizens.
The measures include a “Takaful and Karama” pension, which half-a-million families are already benefiting from. Those receiving the pension would increase to one million families in December and 1.5 million in 2017.
According to El-Sisi, the minimum pension was raised from EGP 200 – 300 to EGP 500, with an annual raise of a minimum EGP 125.
A third measure would be a continuation of social insurance pensions, which offer non-conditional aid to the poor, orphans, widows and female workers. This is expected to include 2.5 million benefiters with a cost of EGP 7 billion.
El-Sisi also promised to study more steps to improve the status of the poor and low income citizens.
“The medicine’s taste is bitter, and suitable solutions should be taken – even if temporarily painful,” El-Sisi said.
The president also denied rumours suggesting that one million civil servants were to be laid off.
Social equality
When asked whether there were fears that spending would negatively affect steps related to achieving “social equality,” the El-Sisi said that the state will be building one million apartments over two years at a cost of EGP 170 billion.
“We had previously said that anyone who submits a request for an apartment will get it,” he said.
In a speech two weeks ago, El-Sisi said that by mid-2018, four to five million Egyptians would be living in 800,000 to one million residential units provided by the government.
He added that 175,000 housing units are currently being built at a cost of EGP 17 billion for one million families currently living in “unsafe informal settlements.”
El-Sisi also said that 2018 would see the end of such informal settlements, promising housing for an additional 850,000 to one million Egyptians as part of a separate project to build 150,000 residential units.
El-Sisi also discussed a project that aims to combat Hepatitis C and reduce rates of infection to come in line with international rates.
As of May 2015, around 15 million Egyptians had been diagnosed with Hepatitis C, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
El-Sisi said that some 800,000 people have already received treatment and have been cured.
“We hope that we can announce by 2018 that Egypt has become Hepatitis C-free,” he said.
New cities
El-Sisi said that the new cities currently under construction in several parts of the country – including the new administrative capital, El-Alamein, New Ismailia, and New Suez – aim to offer a “breather for the masses.”
On the new administrative capital, located 45 kilometres east of Cairo, he said that the main aim behind the project is to decrease growing pressures on Cairo, where governmental facilities, business districts and foreign embassies are located.
“This way we can transform land in the desert that is worth nothing to land worth EGP 1,000 per metre,” El-Sisi said.
Construction is ongoing at the new administrative capital, which was announced in March 2015 and is estimated to cost $45 billion.
Since then, several memorandums of understanding have been signed, including one with China, to aid in the project.
The megaproject’s first phase will include the building of facilities for 12 ministries and a number of other governmental institutions, a residential area to include more than 25,000 housing units, and the world’s largest park.
The army’s role
El-Sisi talked about the role of the army’s Engineering Authority, saying that one of the army’s responsibilities is to administer the work of public and private construction firms.
He said that the Engineering Authority is in charge of managing and supervising construction projects, ensuring they are completed within their deadlines and at the lowest costs.
“There are 2,000 companies – private and public sector companies – working on projects under the supervision of the Armed Forces,” El-Sisi said.
He added that Egyptians should not forget the role of the Armed Forces in controlling market prices through its “specialised bodies” that export meat and poultry at the lowest prices to combat price hikes.
The army has provided trucks over the past few years to transport consumer goods, ensuring they are sold at suitable prices and eliminating price hikes.
El-Sisi added that expenditure on the Armed Forces from the state’s budget ranges from 2 to 2.5 percent of the GNP, saying that this is the lowest among countries in the region.
Egypt’s state budget for the fiscal year forecasts total expenditure of EGP 936 billion and revenues to reach EGP 631 billion, according the finance ministry’s website.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/3/12/241502/Business/Economy/Egypt-cannot-afford-to-postpone-tough-economic-ref.aspx

Egypt’s Sisi tackles foreign policy issues in lengthy interview

In a long interview with Egypt’s three major publicly owned newspapers published on Monday, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi announced that he is going to participate in the upcoming G20 summit in China in early September.
“I am looking forward to meeting with many of the world leaders there,” El-Sisi said in the first part of the interview published in Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar, and Al-Gomhouria.
“Egypt is keen to deliver the voice of Africa at the upcoming G20 summit,” he said.
The Egyptian president also revealed that he will participate in the upcoming session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, also in September.
“I am going to participating in the General Assembly to reaffirm the Egyptian vision to fight terrorism and radicalism,” he said.
In a seven-hour interview on Sunday with the editors of the three dailies, El-Sisi discussed a range of domestic and international issues.
The first part of the interview, published on Monday tackled Egypt’s relations with the world as well regional developments in the Middle East for three hours.
The second part of the interview, to be published on Tuesday, will deal with domestic issues.
Egypt and Russia
El-Sisi said that he was “optimistic” about the return of Russian tourists to Egypt.
Russian tourism to Egypt was halted last year, after a Russian airliner crashed in Sinai killing all on board, mostly Russian holidaymakers.
Following the crash Moscow suspended all flights to Egyptian airports. A number of European countries suspended flights to Sharm El-Sheikh, the airport from which the airliner had taken off.
“I totally understand the concerns of the Russian leadership towards its citizens after the incident of the airliner,” President El-Sisi said, adding that the crash did not negatively affect Egyptian-Russian relations.
The Russian investigative committee has officially classified the plane crash as a terrorist attack, after an Islamic State militant group affiliate in North Sinai claimed responsibility for bringing down the airliner with a bomb.
Egypt’s domestic investigation committee has yet to release any findings on the cause of the crash.
The drop in tourists from Russia, one of the main sources for foreign visitors to Egypt, has had a major impact on the local tourist indusry, as have the reduction in tourists from other countries. The knock-on effect for Egypt’s economy has also been significant, as tourism is one of the major sources of foreign curency.
El-Sisi also announced in the interview that the final agreement between Egypt and Russia to build the El-Dabaa nuclear power plant will be signed this year.
The nuclear plant, the country’s first, will be constructed at El-Dabaa south of the country’s Mediterranean coast.
The Middle East peace process
On developments related to the peace process in the Middle East, El-Sisi said that Egypt supports all ongoing efforts that seek to resolve an “extremely complicated issue.”
He explained that Egypt’s relationships with both the Palestinian and Israeli sides allow Egypt to play a pivotal role in finding a solution.
In July, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reiterated –during the first visit by an Egyptian foreign minister to Tel Aviv since 200– to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Egypt is a “steadfast and unwavering” supporter of the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
El-Sisi said the efforts status on reaching a solution were in “still water” and efforts should be exerted to move the process forward on the condition that all will is available, whether from the Palestinian or the Israeli side, or from the international community.
The president also said it was necessary to finalise the national reconciliation between the Palestinian authority and the Hamas movement so “there would be a real effort to found a Palestinian state.”
El-Sisi stated that Egypt doesn’t aim for an exclusive role in resolving the Palestinian crisis as much as it wants to push the idea for to others that peace is a “glaring right” that could change the region if accomplished.
The president also revealed for the first time that Russian President Vladimir Putin was ready to host direct peace talks between the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu in Moscow.
Egypt and Italy
El-Sisi said he was thankful for the “positive statements” from Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi regarding the Giulio Regini murder investigation.
“The Italians feel that we cooperate with them in order to find out the truth,” said El-Sisi repeating that he sympathised with the family of the Italian student.
Regeni, who was in Cairo conducting research on independent trade unions, went missing on 25 January. His body was found nine days later in by the roadside on the outskirts of the captial, bearing signs of severe torture.
El-Sisi also said that he believed that public diplomacy delegations from Egypt had helped in clarifying the image in Italy.
“Still, let me tell you that the way some media outlets in Egypt dealt with that case complicated the matter,” he said without explaining further.
This is not the first time El-Sisi has criticised some Egyptian media outlets for their take on the PhD student’s murder.
In April, El-Sisi blamed “evil” people in Egypt for “lie- and allegation-mongering” about the case and embarrasing Egypt internationally.
Egypt and the US
In March 2015, the Obama administration resumed US military aid following a suspension of aid in October 2013 over Egypt’s crackdown on the now banned Muslim Brotherhood group following the ousting of president Mohamed Morsi and violent attacks by Islamists against security forces
The resumption of US aid to Cairo came despite continuing criticism of Egypt’s human rights record by local and international rights watchdogs.
In May, Egypt also received an initial shipment of mine resistant ambush protected (MRAP) vehicles from the United States at no-cost, to help Egyptian security forces with their war against Islamist militants in North Sinai governorate.
Hundreds of Egyptian security personnel have been killed by bombs and shootings in northern Sinai.
“Egyptian-American relations are strategic and they have been improving,” said President El-Sisi, when asked about the future of the bilateral relationship.
“We both are interested in giving ourselves a chance to review our stances. During the past three years, facts about the situation in Egypt were clarified to them, and our policies are characterised with balance, prudence, and keenness on such relationships,” he said.
Regarding whether they are currently talks with the US presidential candidates or not, El-Sisi said there were talks with all the sectors of the US political scene including officials in the Congress, the US administration and the Pentagon.
Developments in Syria, Libya, Yemen
El-Sisi said he believes that the US-Russian understanding as well as the flexibility of the regional powers involved in the Syrian conflict can find an end to the crisis in the war-torn country.
In his interview, the president summarised the Egyptian position regarding the Syrian crisis as respecting the unity of Syrian territory and the Syrian people’s will, finding a political solution to the crisis, disarming the militias and radical groups, and reactivating the role of state institutions.
“The terrorist groups are already moving from Syria and Iraq to Libya and there are international efforts to deal with that danger,” El-Sisi said in his interview.
Speaking about Libya, he said Egypt supported Libya’s national army as well its elected parliament because they represented the will of the Libyan people.
“We are already to confront any threat on our borders with Libya,” he said.
On Yemen, El-Sisi said that Egypt had no naval forces deployed in combat to any country in the region, adding that the Egyptian navy was only securing navigation in the Bab Al-Mandab strait and the passage of ships to the Suez Canal.
He added that the Egyptian air force was working with “our brothers in Saudi Arabia” in Yemen.
Egypt’s air force has been participating in the Saudi-led military coalition against Houthi rebels in Yemen since the coalition was launched in March 2015.
Relationship with the Gulf states
“Our relationship with the Gulf states is solid and strong and cannot be reduced to financial support only,” said El-Sisi.
Since the 2013 ouster of Mohamed Morsi, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have provided Egypt with billions of dollars in aid.
El-Sisi also added that “Arab states need to deal with one another more positivity and to work on unity.”
The controversy over Tiran and Sanafir
El-Sisi also spoke about the controversy regarding a maritime demarcation border agreeement between Egypt and Saudi Arabia that placed two Red Sea Islands Tiran and Sanafir, long administered by Egypt, under Saudi Arabia’s sovereignty.
The decision in April caused immediate controversy locally, with many public figures arguing the islands were in fact Egyptian territory.
At protests organised against the decision, dozens were arrested and stood trial mostly for breaking the Protest Law. Most have been released after found innocent or receiving heavy fines.
The Egyptian government has repeatedly said that the islands have always belonged to Saudi Arabia and that Egypt has merely been administering them on behalf of the Saudis since the 1950s.
El-Sisi said that he was dealing with the issue in complete respect for the state’s institutions and the independence of its judiciary and its verdicts.
Egypt’s State Lawsuits Authority – the body that represents the government in legal cases – appealed before the High Constitutional Court in June after an Egyptian administrative court voided the decision by the government to place the two islands under Saudi control.
The government has also been challenged by an appeal to the High Administrative Court, which would stop the execution of the verdict until the High Constitutional Court looks into the case. Both courts have yet to issue a ruling.
The maritime border demarcation agreement, signed during Saudi King Salman’s historical visit to Egypt in April, is yet to be presented to parliament.
El-Sisi stressed that parliament will have a chance to scrutinise the agreement.
Another Egypt-Cyprus-Greece summit
El-Sisi also revealed that there would be another Egyptian-Cypriot-Greek summit in October to push forward cooperation between the three countries.
In the past two years, three-way summit meetings have been held in Athens, Cairo and Nicosia to establish maritime boundaries in the eastern Mediterranean, as well as cooperating in the fields of energy, tourism and agriculture.
“Redrawing the maritime boundaries give us a real opportunity to search for (marine wealth),” he said.
Egypt and Turkey
Regarding the troubled relationship with Turkey, El-Sisi said Egypt was giving “the Turks” time to correct their position.
“There is no enmity between the Egyptian people and Turkish people,” said El-Sisi, adding that the Egyptian government would not respond to statements of Turkish officials except in a way that represents “Egypt’s civilization, culture and values.”
The Ankara government has been a vocal opponent of the Egyptian regime following the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi in the summer of 2013.
On Saturday, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirm said during a briefing that Turkey wanted to repair ties with Egypt.
“We think we need to develop economic and cultural ties with Egypt as countries that use the two sides of the Mediterranean,” he said.
Egypt and Nile Basin countries
“Egypt has started a new era to develop its relations with African countries, especially Nile Basin countries,” said El-Sisi during the interview.
El-Sisi said that the negotiations on the technical studies into the impact of the under-construction Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam were progressing in a way that is “reassuring to all.”
“The Nile water will continue to flow to Egypt and to everyone else,” he said.
According to the Egyptian President, President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan will visit in next October for a meeting of the Sudanese-Egyptian Higher Committee.

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We must cooperate to face difficult economic conditions, Sisi tells Egyptians

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi reiterated on Saturday that Egypt is facing major economic challenges, saying authorities and citizens must work together and embrace reforms to overcome such dire conditions.
“We need to cooperate together, as a nation, to face the current difficult economic conditions,” El-Sisi told Egyptians during the inauguration of a petrochemical complex in Alexandria.
In the televised speech, El-Sisi talked about coming economic reforms, including reforms of subsidies.
His statement comes a few days after Egypt and the IMF reached an initial deal for a $12 billion fund facility over three years, expected to be approved by the fund’s executive board as well as the country’s parliament in the coming weeks.
The Egyptian economy in the course of 60 years, El-Sisi said, has been hit with several blows due to wars, including the 1956 war, the Yemen war, the1967 war, and the 1973 war.
What also added fuel to fire, El-Sisi said, is the perennial terrorism that repeatedly took a toll on tourism. Moreover, an increase in state salaries had led to an EGP 600 billion increase in domestic debt throughout the past four years, he added.
According to El-Sisi, salaries rose from EGP 80 billion before the 2011 revolution to EGP 228 billion yearly after it, raising domestic debt from EGP 800 billion to 2.3 trillion pounds, or a rate of 97 percent of GDP.
He added that 900,000 people have been appointed in the public sector, even though the sector doesn’t need such so many employees.
El-Sisi said that the first attempt to introduce economic reforms was in 1977, during the presidency of Anwar El-Sadat, who introduced austerity measures, including the removal of subsidies on basic goods.
The country then witnessed large-scale popular protests, known as the “bread intifiada,” leading the government to retreat on the measures.
Succeeding governments were afraid to enforce such measures, El-Sisi said, stressing that he will do whatever necessary to improve the economy.
“All tough decisions that many hesitated over long years […] to take, I will not hesitate for a second to take,” he said to applause.
He added that whatever procedures the government would undergo, they would always keep an eye on the “humble citizen.”
Subsidy reform
As pointed out in several speeches, El-Sisi said the subsidies would be “rationed” to go to those who are “worthy,” without giving much further detail.
He said that the government would inform people about the procedures that would be taken in a press conference, just like the hike in electricity prices last week.
El-Sisi defended the new tariffs for household consumers as a part of the government’s plan to phase out energy subsidies, justifying that the “simple increase” in tariffs of household brackets would save the state budget EGP 20 billion.
This is not the first time this month that the Egyptian president has discussed economic reforms.
Earlier in August, he said that “unneeded” and “indiscriminate” subsidies affect the state’s budget.
According to El-Sisi, the government is currently working on preparing a system to ensure that subsidies are only granted to those who deserve it.
The government plans to slash its total subsidy bill in the new budget by 14 percent in the current 2016-2017 fiscal year, but has refrained from specifying when and by how much fuel prices would rise.
El-Sisi also discussed the ticket prices of the Cairo metro, saying that the last price increase was twelve years ago.
Egypt has repeatedly said it would raise the price of metro tickets to offset annual losses, but has not yet followed through.
A one-way ticket of any distance costs EGP 1. However, the real cost for the metro ticket is more than EGP 10, El-Sisi said on Saturday.
New housing, cities by 2018
During the speech, El-Sisi shed light on accomplishments that he said have been made in the past two years, promising more achievements through a completion of several projects by mid-2018, the end of his first presidential term.
El-Sisi said that 70,000 km of roads and highways will be completed by the end of the period.
He also discussed government housing, saying that by mid-2018 four to five million Egyptians would live in 800,000 to 1,000,000 residential units provided by the government.
El-Sisi also said that 2018 would be the end of “unsafe informal settlements”, promising housing for an additional 850,000 to 1 million Egyptians in a separate project of 150,000 residential units.
Both housing projects will cost the country EGP 180 billion.
He added that by mid-2018, the government would be done with planning and executing a number of new cities, including four new cities in Upper Egypt.
He also discussed water treatments projects, the completion of new metro lines, and development in Sinai – all to be complete by 2018.
“The goal was to handle responsibility and we should handle it together,” El-Sisi told Egyptians by the end of the speech, before addressing Egyptian women and asking them to cut down on costs “that could be a burden on Egypt’s economy in their households.”
El-Sisi also said that by mid-2018, Egypt will have embarked heavily on water desalination, saying 10 million cubic metres of waste water coming from sewer systems, agricultural irrigation and industrial facilities will be recycled.
Another one million cubic metres from the Rea Sea water will be desalinated. he said. The target is to add to provide 3.5 billion cubic metres of water per year, El-Sisi said.
Egyptian officials and experts have long worried that Ethiopia’s under-construction Grand Renaissance Dam will diminish the country’s 55 billion cubic metre-share of Nile water, although El-Sisi, who has visited Ethiopia and addressed the country’s parliament, has told citizens “not to worry” about the project’s impact.
*The official exchange rate for $1 = EGP 8.78

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