Egypt's national dialogue will be inclusive and free, organisers promise

Findings to be submitted to the Egyptian leader to inform policy

Egyptian farmers in a wheat field. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi hs assured Egyptians that food reserves will cover demand for months. EPA
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A national dialogue proposed by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah El Sisi will involve “the largest possible number” of societal representatives, in a bid to define the priorities of a new and inclusive republic, organisers have said.

The National Training Academy, founded in 2017 to upgrade the skills and education of state employees, will arrange the dialogue first proposed by Mr El Sisi last month.

Authorities have not yet announced a starting date, or outlined the specific goals or topics of the dialogue, saying only that it will be held across the nation and a “neutral” committee would summarise the outcomes of the discussions in a report to be submitted to the Egyptian leader.

The next step would be for Mr El Sisi to ask parliament to draft and adopt laws reflecting at least some of the findings.

The academy said it would moderate the discussions with “complete neutrality” and will not interfere with the content, so that a “serious, effective and inclusive” dialogue can be carried out.

“It is an extremely important step towards defining the priorities of national endeavours and the establishment of the new republic,” the academy said, highlighting that the call for the dialogue came after Egypt weathered “security threats that had placed the country in an exceptional situation.”

Preparations for the dialogue, which has been cautiously welcomed by government critics, come at a time when Egypt is experiencing a severe economic downturn.

They also follow a series of conciliatory steps by Mr El Sisi. These include the release of several dozen activists and journalists from pretrial detention and the revival of a presidential committee tasked with reviewing and making recommendations on the cases of pretrial detention.

The gravity of the economic downturn was highlighted by Mr El Sisi when he called a talk-show host on Tuesday night.

“It is an unprecedented crisis with heavy consequences,” he said.

He, however, assured Egyptians that food reserves would cover demand for months and dismissed claims that some items were in short supply, or had disappeared from shelves.

The downturn hit Egypt as it was grappling with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. It has been blamed on post-pandemic global supply chain disruptions as well as higher energy prices and shipping costs.

The Ukraine-Russia war has deepened the problems, driving up food prices in Egypt and compounding the economic hardships faced by millions.

The crisis has forced Egypt to devalue its currency against the dollar by 14 per cent, open negotiations with the IMF on a possible aid package and temporarily ban the export of key foodstuffs, including wheat and cooking oil.

Mr El Sisi on Tuesday night announced the exemption of local industries from government measures recently placed on imports, saying it was important to do so to save millions of manufacturing jobs.

Updated: June 15, 2023, 11:24 AM