El-Sisi tells Egypt most painful economic reforms are over

Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi addressed the nation on the tough economic reforms the country is going through. (AFP)
Updated 23 January 2019
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El-Sisi tells Egypt most painful economic reforms are over

CAIRO: Egypt’s president said Wednesday that the most painful part of his ambitious economic reform program was over, but cautioned there was still some way to go before it’s completed.
The reforms included floating the currency, substantial cuts in state subsidies on basic goods, and introducing a wide range of new taxes. The measures led to a significant rise in prices and services, something critics say has hurt the poor and middle class the hardest.
The reforms were agreed on with the International Monetary Fund in exchange for a $12 billion loan.
In televised comments aired live, Abdel Fatteh El-Sisi said Egypt has gone through the worst of the fallout from the reforms. “Not too much is left and it won’t be harsher than what we had already gone through. We are determined to finish it.”
El-Sisi thanked Egyptians for “enduring the harsh and difficult (economic) measures,” something that he has often done since the reforms began in 2016 with the floatation of the currency that cost the Egyptian pound more than half of its value.
His thanks and implicit warning that more reforms were to come appeared designed to prepare Egyptians for a widely anticipated wave of price rises this year that could include fuel and electricity.
He said his government had no choice but to embark on the reform program.
“Anything else would have led to the collapse of the state,” he said in an address marking Police Day, a national holiday that falls on Jan. 25.
Years of political turmoil and violence following a 2011 uprising that toppled the 29-year regime of autocrat Hosni Mubarak has crippled the economy, keeping foreign tourists and investors out and reducing productivity. El-Sisi’s reforms and improved security have improved economic indicators, winning praise from Cairo’s Western backers but they are yet to filter down to most Egyptians.


Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

Updated 16 February 2019
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Erdogan offers seminary exchange for Greek mosque minarets

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday suggested the mosque in Athens should open with minarets if the Greek premier wants to reopen a seminary in Istanbul.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was in Turkey this month and visited the disputed landmarks of Hagia Sophia and the now-closed Greek Orthodox Halki seminary.
Tsipras said during the visit to the seminary located on Heybeli island off Istanbul on February 6 he hoped to reopen the school next time with Erdogan.
Future priests of the Constantinople diocese had been trained at the seminary, which was closed in 1971 after tensions between Ankara and Athens over Cyprus.
Erdogan on Saturday complained that the Fethiye Mosque in Athens had no minarets despite Greek insistence that it would open.
The mosque was built in 1458 during the Ottoman occupation of Greece but has not been used as a mosque since 1821.
“Look you want something from us, you want the Halki seminary. And I tell you (Greece), come, let’s open the Fethiye Mosque,” Erdogan said during a rally in the northwestern province of Edirne ahead of local elections on March 31.
“They said, ‘we are opening the mosque’ but I said, why isn’t there a minaret? Can a church be a church without a bell tower?” he said, describing his talks with Tsipras.
“We say, you want to build a bell tower? Come and do it... But what is an essential part of our mosques? The minarets,” the Turkish president added.
Erdogan said Tsipras told him he was wary of criticism from the Greek opposition.
After the independence war against Ottomans began in 1821, the minaret is believed by some to have been destroyed because it was a symbol of the Ottoman occupation.
Ankara had returned land taken from the seminary in 1943 but there is still international pressure on Turkey to reopen it.
Erdogan has previously said that its reopening is dependent on reciprocal steps from Greece to enhance the rights of the Turkish minority.