Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail presented the government’s program to the country’s House of Representatives on Sunday, with a focus on the country’s economic situation.
Ismail began his speech by outlining the “solidification” of the political landscape, pointing to the country’s various entities, including a judiciary “that guarantees rights and does justice to those who are wronged,” a police force “that implements the law and respects human rights” and “media that is free,” in addition to the parliament acting as a watchdog, a president who leads and a constitution to regulate and organize the country.
“Despite all the challenges we face since the Egyptian people corrected on June 30, 2013 the roadmap of its revolution…we have succeeded in taking some steps forward,” Ismail said.
He also said that, while the country remains in a “critical stage,” there is an improvement in economic indicators that “cannot be ignored,” including unemployment dropping a modest 0.6 percent, from 13.3 to 12.7 percent. Ismail said that these indicators show that the government is “heading in the right direction.”
Ismail also said that the country is “facing challenges to its national security on the Arab and regional levels, which requires a boost in spending on defense and internal and external security…this certainly affects the economic situation, which is part of national security.”
The premier admitted that the quality of public services – including education, health services, transportation and housing – has declined and requires the injection of funding to improve its standards, which he described as “another challenge the state faces.”
He added that, while the budget deficit has modestly decreased, it remains high by international standards. Ismail pointed to the hike in subsidy and public service expenditures, without an increase in national production, as reasons behind the deficit. He said that, because the country continues to offer subsidized prices, its spending efficiency has not increased.
Ismail further took note to the rapid depletion of the country’s foreign currency reserves – from USD 35.2 million in June 2010 to approximately USD 16.5 million in December 2015 – caused by the decline in tourism, adding that the downing of the Russian plane in October 2015 “undoubtedly had negative effects” on the industry, which has traditionally been Egypt’s main earner of foreign currencies.
“We wished to highlight the aforementioned challenges at the beginning of our presentation of the government’s program to paint a clear picture of the current situation,” Ismail said in his address. “As you can see, the challenges and difficulties are plentiful and the problems run deep. However, there is nothing in these challenges that prevents us from facing them.”
Ismail continued by outlining his government’s vision for running the country, including a “serious commitment” to the reform process on the political, social, environmental and administrative levels; following a “scientific method” and implementing innovative ideas to face the country’s challenges, which will force them to take “long-postponed decisions”; a promise that any economic decision will be accompanied by programs for social protection that the government will ensure is reaching those in need; taking seriously the issue of corruption and “working hand-in-hand” with regulatory apparatuses; finding a solution for bureaucracy; and placing the satisfaction of Egyptian citizens “at the heart of the government’s program,” which will address the populace’s main concerns, including education, health services, and housing.
The prime minister’s speech was not aired live but was rather recorded and televised later on – a decision that was controversial, with many claiming it was necessary for the speech to be aired live, as it is a “national issue.”
Ismail’s presentation of the government’s program has been delayed several times, as the House of Representatives took longer than expected to pass the multitude of presidential decrees Al-Sisi had passed in the absence of parliament.
According to Article 146 of the Egyptian constitution, the president is to appoint a prime minister to form a cabinet and present its program to the House of Representatives. If the government fails to secure the vote of confidence from the majority of the House within 30 days at the most, the majority party or bloc in the House of Representatives will form a new government and name a new prime minister. If the second cabinet also fails to secure the vote of confidence, the House of Representatives will be dissolved.
Ismail was appointed Egypt’s prime minister in September 2015, after Ibrahim Mehleb’s cabinet resigned without an explanation.
10 new ministers and four deputy ministers were sworn into Ismail’s cabinet on Wednesday, just days ahead of the program presentation.