Egypt's El Sisi says he will pull economy through global crisis

Egyptian leader says country will pull through difficulties and become a 'modern and developed nation'

'We will, by the grace of God, sail through these difficult circumstances,' President Abdel Fattah El Sisi told fellow Egyptians. AFP
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President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Tuesday cast aside growing worries about Egypt’s economic crisis, assuring the nation’s 104 million people that his government will pull them through.

Speaking at a televised ceremony on the 49th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, Mr El Sisi also warned Egyptians against paying heed to what he called the “poisonous” lies spread by “forces of evil” — an apparent reference to the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

The military removed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, amid mass street protests against his divisive, one-year rule. Mr El Sisi was the nation's top general at the time.

Mr El Sisi said the “new republic” — a recently coined phrase to reflect his ambitious efforts to modernise the country — will meet the aspirations of this and the next generations and witness Egypt’s shift to a “modern and developed nation.”

He did not go into details about the country’s economic woes or explain the reasoning behind his confidence that Egypt will pull through.

A baker stacks traditional baladi flatbread outside a bakery in Cairo. The war in Ukraine has hit grain imports. AP

“We will, by the grace of God, sail through these difficult circumstances. You will see,” Mr El Sisi said.

Egypt’s economy has been devastated by the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine due to rising costs of wheat and energy, global uncertainty and inflationary pressure. This hit as the most populous Arab nation was recovering from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since March, the Egyptian pound has depreciated by about 20 per cent.

Its value is expected to further slide in the remainder of the year — from the current 19.60 Egyptian pounds to the dollar to around 22 to 23 Egyptian pounds to the dollar by the beginning of next year.

A shortage of US dollars, partially caused by a soaring import bill and the flight of billions of dollars from Egypt’s once lucrative debt market, has hit local industries hard.

Inflation, fuelled by higher global energy, shipping and food prices, is hovering around 14 per cent.

The country is widely thought to be inching closer to securing an IMF loan as part of an economic restructuring programme to be agreed with the Washington-based lender.

Speculation by analysts puts the size of the loan at between $5 billion and $8bn.

Shoppers at a Cairo fruit stall. Inflation is running at around 14 per cent, increasing pressure on Egyptians. EPA

It’s against this backdrop that Mr El Sisi struck an upbeat note.

“The global economic crisis that’s endured by every soul on this planet is an example of what we see and live here and which we make every effort to pull through it with sincere effort and work for the sake of our beloved country,” he said.

“There remains evil powers filled with hatred and resentment that spread its poison in the nation’s veins through the spreading of lies … to assassinate the morale and confidence of citizens.

“I am positive that Egyptians are stronger and bigger [than to believe them].”

He did not say what those lies were about, but his government has in recent weeks been repeatedly questioned over its spending priorities.

Independent economists have taken advantage of a relative relaxation of restrictions on free speech to criticise economic policies.

Mr El Sisi sought to highlight his government's record.

“I have asked the state to work at maximum capacity,” he said of the government’s performance since he took office.

“And we did that without engaging in political tricks.”

He said that his government's multibillion-dollar programme to modernise and overhaul the economy and infrastructure was pursued while troops and police fought to put down an insurgency by extremists.

Updated: October 04, 2022, 4:32 PM