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.

UN Security Council approves Hodeidah ceasefire monitoring force in Yemen

Updated 16 January 2019

UN Security Council approves Hodeidah ceasefire monitoring force in Yemen

  • Deployment will be known as the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement
  • Resolution requests the larger force to be deployed expeditiously

NEW YORK: The UN Security Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized the deployment of up to 75 observers to Yemen's port city of Hodeidah for six months to monitor a ceasefire.

The Security Council last month authorized an advance monitoring team led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert and asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to recommended a larger operation.

The initial deployment came after a deal reached during talks in Sweden between the Iran-backed Houthi militants and the internationally recognized government. The UN says the ceasefire that went into force on Dec.18 in Hodeida has been generally holding, but there have been delays in the redeployment of Hothi and some government forces from the city.

The British-drafted resolution adopted on Wednesday asks Guterres to "expeditiously" deploy his recommended larger operation, which will be known as the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).
The resolution also "requests Member States, particularly neighboring States, to support the United Nations as required for the implementation of UNMHA's mandate."
Guterres described the mission as a "nimble presence" that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.

Hodeidah is the entry point for most of Yemen's commercial goods and aid supplies, and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis on the verge of starvation.