By Mohamed El-Baaly and Deena Gamil, Egypt
The Prime Minister’s advisor for International Cooperation, Ziad Bahaa el-Din, said on Sunday that the government’s program to protect the democratic transition does not include any intentions to strike an agreement with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egypt’s democratic transition
In an exclusive interview with Aswat Masriya, the PM’s advisor said that pressures facing Egypt forced him to launch what became later known as “Ziad Bahaa el-Din’s initiative”, a project adopted by the government on August 21 to protect the democratic transition.
Bahaa el-Din added that the committee that was formed to lead the program will not include any representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood unless the group agrees to the roadmap introduced by the army following the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.
Egypt’s top army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, announced a roadmap after ousting Mursi – who hails from the Brotherhood – in July. The roadmap included constitutional amendments as well as holding parliamentary and presidential elections.
Bahaa el-Din told Aswat Masriya that the initiative includes three main pillars based on the roadmap mentioned above. He explained that it requires uniting all efforts in the direction of the roadmap without excluding any faction, adding that a semi-governmental committee has been formed to oversee the progress of the initiative.
He called on civil society and political parties to build a bloc to protect the democratic transition.
Civil society to be involved in government discussions
He added that the bloc should be based on the roadmap set forth following Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, saying that the government plans to involve the civil society in discussions before issuing legislation relating to the rights and duties of its members.
He added that the government has suspended discussing the law of regulating protests until it presents it to the national council for human rights to arrange a public dialogue about it.
Egypt’s economic recovery
Egypt’s army-backed transitional government promised to take quick steps in order to revive the economy by putting a medium-term plan for development in cooperation with Arab and Western donors.
The interim deputy minister said that within the government’s investment plan, some negotiations are underway with the United Arab of Emirates on projects that would positively affect Egypt’s economy.
He added that Emirati officials have promised to provide Egypt with all forms of support, through both loans and aid package to support the cash reserve and developmental programs.
“The government is focused on taking steps to express its social commitments, which does not mean its abandoning the principles of an open economy. Decisions such as regulating prices of some commodities and setting a minimum wages system are only a government intervention to maintain economic development.”
Bahaa al-Din said that the general mood in Egypt is leaning towards the direction of an open economy, but it must be under certain restraints to ensure social justice.
He ruled out that the government’s plan would increase the country’s inflation rate, saying that the government aims at regulating prices. Regarding the budget deficit, Bahaa el-Din said, “We hope that this year’s deficit rate would be less than last year’s.”
Egypt to reduce budget deficit
Meanwhile, Finance Minister Ahmed Galal said that the government seeks to reduce the budget deficit to 10 percent during the current fiscal year compared to last year’s 14 percent.
He explained that the government’s economic plan is comprised of four steps; firstly there were quick decisions to take the edge off citizens, such as canceling school fees and reducing the prices of some essential supplies.
Secondly, the government would begin working on its investment program. Afterwards it would work on a range of important legislation, and finally the implementation of long-term reform plans.
Bahaa el-Din added that the cabinet is currently considering a bill to regulate micro-credit loans.
“Egypt is seeking the development of the small-enterprise sector through supporting its tumbling economy and absorbing the unemployment rate, which now amounts to 13 percent, according to the most recent government estimates.”
The senior minister said that the interim president will soon approve a law addressing the conflict of interests between public services and business interests for government officials.
He added that the cabinet has already passed the bill, but it is awaiting the president’s signature for the law to be enforced.
The law was drafted as part of a legislative build up by the interim government that is designed to curb the widespread corruption in Egypt.
Bahaa al-Din added that the cabinet is taking into account a long-term plan for the reconstruction of the government apparatus.
He explained that the government is a large institution that has not been developed in years, insisting that for the plan to work there must be cooperation from all employees.
He stressed that there is no alternative to working with the government in order to achieve social and economic recovery.
The Egyptian government has been suffering from administrative inefficiency, an inadequate technological infrastructure and corruption, in addition, the government employees who add up to about 5.5 million people, are seldom trained and complain from poor salaries.
“I choose to side with the government’s administrative employees,” Bahaa el-Din said when asked about the structural reform of the government.
He added that the reform plan might require that some ministries be merged and that functions of some public institutions be redefined.
This content is from : Aswat Masriya