El Sisi has to meet Egypt’s challenges
Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s vision to create a new, stable Egypt, in which economic prosperity and the rule of law are top of the agenda, will go a long way towards curing his country’s ills. As The National reported yesterday, the former field marshal enjoys widespread support among voters and promised in two widely watched TV interviews that he will work hard if, as expected, he is elected president this month.
Mr El Sisi repeated his long-held view that Egyptians face an “extremely difficult task” and that his country risks “being lost” under the intense economic pressures, deep divisions and political mismanagement that Egypt has endured in recent years.
Only hard work and patience will dig the country out of its present circumstances, he said, noting that Egypt’s problems will not be solved overnight. He also acknowledged that “countries don’t advance with words. They advance with perseverance and selflessness and altruism”.
All this is absolutely correct. The unemployment rate has been stuck at about 13 per cent since the middle of last year and there is no sign of it falling. Economic growth rates are weak and predicted to hover around two per cent this year. Prospects are so poor that nine million Egyptians – including a disproportionate number of the most talented and best educated – live abroad. One in four of those who are still in the country survive below the poverty line.
Mr El Sisi already exudes a presidential authority and clearly has a good grasp of the economic realities his country faces. He knows he must reinvigorate Egypt’s tourism industry – a sector that has struggled since the uprisings began in 2011. Having a stable government and internal security will go a long way towards achieving this. He knows, too, that he cannot cut energy or food subsidies, even though they place the national budget under great stress, and he has to tackle the rampant corruption that further cripples the economy.
One of his goals will be to win over many of the voters who had been swayed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Many of those supporters were not attracted by ideology but by the promise of a better life. To get their support, Mr El Sisi has to put the country on the right economic footing and deliver on his political promises.
Published: May 7, 2014 04:00 AM