The driving of a Presidential convoy on a red carpet for several kilometers ahead of the inauguration of several projects in Egypt has caused outrage among Egyptian television and radio personalities.
Egyptian President Sisi’s convoy drove on the red carpet while on a visit to 6 October City to inaugurate several projects, including a housing project for the poor. During a speech, the President announced new spending cuts on water and electricity subsidies and asked Egyptians to be frugal due to economic hardships and called on them not to complain about the austerity measures.
The contrast between the luxury of the several miles long red carpet and then subsequently asking citizens to watch their spending and taking away their water and electricity subsidies provoked anger on social media.
Thousands of tweets and Facebook posts were devoted to ‘red carpet gate’ and the issue was discussed on many of the prime time talk shows that are broadcast on the Egyptian radio and television every night.
“How many blankets for the poor could have been cut out of that carpet?” radio host Youssef al-Husseiny asked. He called the president a hypocrite and wondered what his reaction was when he realised he was in a car on a very long red carpet. “No other world leaders drive on red carpets,” Al-Husseiny assured his listeners.
Walking? No problem. On a bike? That’s ok too. But by car? That’s a bit much, popular talk show host Lamees El-Hadidi concluded. She called on the president’s staff to stop wasting his money and be a bit more careful not to taint his good reputation. Ibrahim Eissa called the whole situation a ‘major political disappointment’.
Presenter Amr Adeeb spoke to a self-proclaimed ‘red carpet expert’ on his talk show, who assured him that such a particular carpet lasts ‘at least three years’ and is ‘not very expensive’. In comparison to exactly what the price of the red floor covering was reasonable remained unclear as no value was given.
The expert was also confident that the same runner was used at the opening of the expansion of the Suez Canal, the reception of the Chinese President and the official celebrations for the most recent Police Day (January 25) and Armed Forces Day (October 6).
The editors of the financial communications agency Enterprise did not quite get what all the fuss was about. “Setting aside the irony that a country that appears to have five chandeliers per capita and yellow gold on almost everything is going to presume to lecture anyone on their taste and or perceived lack of restraint“, they commented in their newsletter.
Meanwhile, a government source told Egyptian Streets that the carpet was paid for and provided by the contractors of the project and that the government was not involved in the rolling out of the red carpet.
“President Sisi and the government would not have known in advance that there was a red carpet. The President is invited to inaugurate the projects and the ceremony is not organized by the government,” said the source.
Water subsidies cost the Egyptian government almost 4.6 million euros per day. Last week it was reported that Egypt needs about 2.8 billion euros to finance the construction of water treatment plants. The government hopes to save more than 3.3 billion euros on energy subsidies in the financial year 2015/2016.
Meanwhile, last week new import taxes came into effect in Egypt on items such as nuts, cosmetics, clothing and household appliances. Tariff rates on some items increased by 100 percent, causing serious price hikes. Inflation in Egypt is about 11 percent annually. Egypt’s economy has been struggling to recover since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak during the January 25 revolution in 2011.