Egypt’s new government makes bold promises but will ordinary lives improve?

Egyptians are suffering from a sharp increase in living costs as part of austerity measures. (AFP)
Updated 06 July 2018

Egypt’s new government makes bold promises but will ordinary lives improve?

  • Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly unveils government strategy plan
  • Egyptians eager to see improved services during a time of austerity

CAIRO: With Egyptians facing increased living costs under tough austerity measures, the new prime minister faced a tough task when he stood before parliament to announce his government program.

The strategy outlined by Mostafa Madbouly was described by many parliamentarians and political analysts as ambitious. In his speech on Tuesday, he outlined how he would address some of the huge imbalances in Egyptian society with plans of action rather than the usual slogans and promises.

It was the first indication for many Egyptians of how he would seek to implement the policies. And despite some of the warm initial reviews, it will take a lot more to win over a public that have long suffered from the country’s economic woes. 

Mohammed Abuhamed, an MP, described described the prime minister’s plans as “very good,” but said that the implementation “must be monitored.”

He said that the prime minister needed to focus on the important issues affecting the daily lives of ordinary citizens such as traffic and price control. He said that Egyptians needed to feel real improvement in the level of services provided by the government.

In his Government Program Strategy, as it is officially known, Madbouly covered a wide range of areas where failing government services are most pressing.

He promised to ensure that 100 percent of urban areas were provided with proper sanitation and that 60 percent of the rural population were. 

Railway services would be improved with 250 new train engines and 1,300 new passenger cars. Road networks would also be improved with 20 new highway bridges at a cost of 2.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($140 million), aiming to reduce road accidents by 30 percent. There would also be seven new roads linking the road network between the east and west banks of the Nile at a cost of 8 billion Egyptian pounds. 

The government plans to increase support for provincial development plans outside of Cairo and Giza, including in Upper Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula — where the government is waging a military campaign to suppress an insurgency led by hardline militant groups. 

There are also ambitious welfare targets including extending the Support and Dignity program, which serves 3.5 million families of about 18 million citizens with annual funding of 20 billion Egyptian pounds.

There are also plans to improve the current public housing system by completing 230,000 new houses and beginning work on another half a million homes.

And crucially his government aims to create 100,000 jobs in rural areas.

For the Arab world’s most populous country, which is struggling to get its ailing economy back on track, people are desperate for the government to improve their lives. The poverty rate is almost 30 percent and more than 10 percent of the population are unemployed.

Madlouby was appointed last month after President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s election to a second term in April. A new cabinet was sworn in tasked with pushing through austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund.

Sayed Azmi, who teaches at a preparatory school in south Cairo, said that the success of the government’s program was up to the ministers and institutions involved, “from the head of parliament right down to the smallest employee in the most remote government institution.” 

“All us citizens really want is a solution to the high prices of everything, as well as a good health insurance system.”

The first target the program should aim to achieve, according to Hussein Abu Saddam, head of the Egyptian farmers syndicate, is improving the standard of living.

“The government has pledged to provide us food, to improve traffic and public transport, housing, water, sanitation, to achieve nation-wide access to drinking water,” he said.

Iman Karim, who graduated from the faculty of commerce at Helwan university last year and has not yet found a job, said Egyptians expected the new program to present more opportunities for work.

On both sides, residents prepare for worst

Palestinians survey a destroyed residential building hit by Israeli airstrikes, in Gaza City, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP)
Updated 14 November 2018

On both sides, residents prepare for worst

  • In Gaza, a number of buildings destroyed in the last war with Israel in 2014 still have not been rebuilt
  • The streets of Gaza City, usually bustling and noisy, were deserted on Tuesday morning

GAZA: Israeli strikes kept Palestinians in Gaza on edge throughout the night over whether another devastating war was beginning, while tens of thousands of Israelis took refuge in shelters as rockets rained down.
“What happened was like an earthquake,” said Abu Ayman Lemzeni, who lives near Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV building in Gaza City destroyed by an Israeli strike.
“As you see, here there is no more the grocery, the pharmacy, the office, the wall, the building.”
“The children are afraid. They are terrorized,” said Gaza resident Jamal Murtaja. “We could not sleep last night or this morning.”
Many had only a short time to flee their homes and found themselves in the street due to a lack of secure shelters. “As soon as we saw the missiles, we ran outside the house,” said Mohammed Aboud, who lives near the former Al-Amal Hotel building.
“We are civilians. We don’t have guns or rockets.”
Just 20 km away, on the other side of Israel’s heavily guarded security fence, the more than 128,000 residents of the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon spent the night under rocket fire. “The girls are traumatized. It’s not possible,” said father of three Meir Edery.
Edery and his family took refuge in a shelter. A police spokesman said Israelis in Ashkelon have little more than 30 seconds to reach a secure location once an alert sounds.
“We are demanding that the government give us the ability to raise our children securely,” Edery said. “It’s our most basic right.”
Behind him, neighbors called out “destroy Hamas,” the Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip and with whom Israel has fought three wars since 2008.
Along the city’s port, nearly all stores had their shutters closed.
Under the azure blue sky, Nissim Arzoane, 65, came to cast his fishing line in the sea, as he does each day.
“We have to show them that we are not afraid,” he said.
Israeli authorities ordered the closure of schools and kindergartens, and many streets were deserted. Betty Calvo, 63, could not sleep at all the previous night.
In Gaza, a number of buildings destroyed in the last war with Israel in 2014 still have not been rebuilt.
The streets of Gaza City, usually bustling and noisy, were deserted on Tuesday morning.
“We have not forgotten the last war in 2014,” said Mohamed Bulbul, who lives in the southern sector of the city.
“People are tired of wars. That’s enough.”