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Al-Sisi’s austerity request

“Egypt’s youth is its hope; they need to give and not expect to take anything now.” “Egypt needs a lot from us. Egypt’s youth should not be thinking about when will they be able to get married or when will they ‘live’, they need to build the country first.” “Our economic situation is extremely difficult, …


Managing editor Rana Allam
Rana Allam

“Egypt’s youth is its hope; they need to give and not expect to take anything now.”

“Egypt needs a lot from us. Egypt’s youth should not be thinking about when will they be able to get married or when will they ‘live’, they need to build the country first.”

“Our economic situation is extremely difficult, right now we can’t ‘want’ anything, we should only ‘give’ to Egypt.”

“Before breakfast, before you put a piece of bread in your mouth, think what you have done for Egypt today.”

“There is a huge problem which we had not seen in 40 years; we are now 90 million people, so Egypt cannot afford to provide proper hospitals, schools and jobs for all.”

“There are over 9 million Egyptians living abroad. They all were educated in Egypt’s schools and universities and had lived on Egyptian soil, did any of them think to give one month salary for the poor in Egypt?”

“Did any of you here decide to walk to their work or university to save money for this country?”

These are parts of the speech delivered by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during an event, asking Egyptians for austerity to save the country.  The speech was met with wide criticism – mostly in the form of jokes, memes and satire – but let us take a closer look on the feasibility of the requests by Egypt’s most likely future president, if only to see if he really studied them.

Obviously, Al-Sisi was directing his speech to the youth, who want to “take”, “get married”, and “live”. According to the July 2013 estimates, Egypt’s population has reached 85.3 million registered citizens. Youth in this country constitute the largest part of the population, and according to recent reports by the state’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), they also constitute 69% of the total unemployed. Total unemployment rate reached 13.6% of Egyptians, but in the poorer Upper Egypt, the rate is 50%. Fifty percent of those living in Upper Egypt are unemployed!

Another report, also by the state’s CAPMAS, stated that 26.3% of Egyptians live beneath the poverty line, 4.4% of which are “extremely poor”, which means they live with less than EGP 3.75 a day (half a dollar given the parity of purchasing power). This number, 26.3%, is quite unrealistic, given that CAPMAS said that 85% of those holding permanent jobs are not considered poor, regardless of how much they are making. Consider this: in Egypt, a family needs a minimum income of EGP 1,620 to fulfill its basic needs, and many of those who are “permanently employed” have been struggling to increase the minimum wage to EGP 1,200. Those are not considered “poor” in the eyes of the government, so the 26.3% is nonsense.

CAPMAS had also reported in February a 10.2% annual inflation rate, with urban consumer inflation rate reaching 15.7% year on year and 0.3% month on month.

Poverty leads to food insecurity, people cannot afford to eat. In May 2013, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) along with CAPMAS issued a report based on the CAPMAS 2011 Household Income and Expenditure and Consumption Survey (HIECS). The report stated that “an estimated 13.7 million Egyptians or 17% of the population suffered from food insecurity in 2011”, “twice as many people moved into poverty as moved out, with less money to spend on food”, and that “the poorest families spend more than half of their average households on food and often buy less expensive, less nutritious food.” The report went on to elaborate on this, saying: “Malnutrition is up, with 31% of children under five years of age stunted… Stunting, reflecting chronic malnutrition is irreversible and stops children reaching their full physical and mental potential. In nine governorates across all regions in 2011, just over half of children under five were estimated to suffer from anaemia, classified as a ‘severe public health problem’ by the WHO.”

Those are numbers from 2011, even before the crisis reached its current levels, before the poverty rate reached (the unrealistic) 26.3%. 13.7 million Egyptians cannot afford to buy food!

Al-Sisi is obviously aware of the poverty issue and in his speech aims to urge the youth to help, but the youth are the ones who are unemployed. Added to the fact that 69% of the youth are unemployed as mentioned earlier, the government’s own CAPMAS also found that “51.3% of youths between the ages of 18 and 29 lived in or near poverty in 2012, representing nearly 23.6% of the population. 27% of them were listed as living in poverty, with another 24.3% labeled as living near the poverty line.”

How realistic and informed is the Field Marshal’s request for Egyptians to exercise more austerity?

On top of that, we need to consider that Egypt’s middle class is also suffering, with so many losing their jobs whether because of the tourism industry crisis or the horrible economic situation. Middle and upper middle class Egyptians are struggling to make ends meet, to live anywhere near their previous living standards, and to provide proper education and healthcare to their children. Most of them have long ago abandoned their dream of living “comfortably” and are now only aiming to remain afloat.

The middle class, which rose in 2011 asking for social justice to the poor of the country, will most likely rise again to demand social justice for themselves!

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  • MaximusBoomaye

    Nice job, writing this article

  • Mohamed Arabi

    How realistic Al-sisi in his request?!!! I greet you on writing such an article that is replete with facts and terrible report results revealing that myopia of those puppets who ruined the country into lowest ranks of poverty, deprivity and ignorance and other malaises. The missing thing I wanted you to at least touch up a little bit is to hold a simple comparison between the sayings of this tin-pot dictator and his and aides’s heinous actions. They are living in absolute corruption and reveling in all creatures comforts, luxury and extravagence. 99 percent of the country’s resources are controlled and marshalled by a bunch of corrupt generals. 99 percents of the country’s assets are concentrated at the hands of a bunch of lousy businesmen. extremely abject poverty versus obsenely ridiculous wealth!

    the road-hog butcher al-sisi speak hollow phrases with no sense to be extrapolated from all of his demagogury and phoney sentimental tone. How much money he has as a benefitary from an era of unjust ruling in which he and his comrades accumulated their wealth. how millions egyptian pounds are in the possession of this killer, stupid traitor? (thirty millions LE). On the evening of the day in which he asked poor Egyptians to embark on a rigid austerity lifestyle, he opened a military-affiliated club costing more than 50, 000, 000 LE. All the money funneled by the corrupt monarchs of the gulf was deposited in the accounts of the traitors to ensure their own futures if worse comes to worst the same as Mubarak and his couriers whom Al-sisi lifted ban on them, realesed them from prison, and lift the law of confiscation on their previously frozen accounts plundered over the past 30 years. After the infamous coup life in Egypt turned upside down with alot of atrocities commited against cicilians, majority of whom are poor, powerless youth. Prevously so-called country of Egypt turned to be hell and torment goes beyond north korea more further. We left egypt as long as it is under the yoke of the military absolutism.
    Tears Shed,

  • Ahmed Bata

    Most gulf assistance was spent on subsidies. The birthrate in Egypt, considering arable land and water resources, is criminal. Keep on making excuses for the selfmade poor, and u take away recognition of the problem, which is a mentality of communist-inspired dependency, aka entitlement, coupled with an irresponsible work ethic, de-emphasis on education, and having more children than one can afford.

  • Ahmed Bata

    Communication between people and government, is watered down to protect people’s feelings. It needs said that tradional lifestyles are unsustainable. Last year, 28% of the budget went to sibsidies. The 6 richest men in Egypt have a net worth that will fund maybe 6 months of subsidies. Criticize not for inequality, because there are no riches. Not for 90 million people. Criticize government’s cowardly bribing of the poor with subsidies, instead of providing opportunity with good primary education, health care, and infrastructure. Then they should invest MORE on those that demonstrate the will to take advantage of opportunity, and LESS on those that don’t. In the end, the biggest lesson is that adults are ultimately responsible for themselves. Other “poor” the world over know this, and pull themselves up with dignity. Our “poor” have been taught by bribes and socialist islamists that its not their fault. Egyptians are the most envious and ineffectual people I’ve ever seen. They only excel at complaining and procreating.

  • Ahmed A.El Sherif

    Mr.. Arabi, No need to use such words as “traitor, and killer.” It was your notorious Brotherhood that wreaked havoc on Egypt in the first place.??!!

  • Ahmed A.El Sherif

    Ms.Allam , Are you saying that , for countries like Egypt , with huge economic problems ,revolution is a luxury??!! Why don’t you ,also, address the notorious Brotherhood, affiliated with AL Qaeda, which , by persisting in its violence , in a country on the verge of bankruptcy ,is pushing that country to the point of no return??!!

  • sam enslow

    No call on the rich and elites to invest in Egypt or to sacrifice anything. The elites in Egypt are so far removed from the normal people they may as well be on a different planet. No call to end corruption or to even allow the state auditor to do his work as mandated by law. This is a rather, “”Let them eat cake” attitude towards the people of Egypt. Each group and institution is protecting his own while demanding sacrifies of the others.
    I hate to say it again, but unless the elites wake up and start communicating with the people and governing Egypt (rather than attempting to rule it), the bloody revolution will come. It isnot too smart (but what usually happens) for politicians facing revolts to act even worse than before the revolution. Since the 25 of January, NO one has paid any attention to the demands of that revolution. Those people are not going away. Fun and games will not solve real problems. A good start would be to start treating the people of Egypt like human beings – not subjects.

  • sri mulyati

    Kindness is the sunshine in which virtue grows.

    Robert Green Ingersoll

    Kebaikan adalah sinar matahari di mana kebajikan tumbuh.

    Robert Green Ingersoll

  • George Jankauskas

    My dear Rana your not old enough to remember Kennedy But the Sisi speech was same basically Its about addressing reality the people to motivate and have to help them selves more and the young are the hope only Rather than protesting in universities they should be cleaning streets teaching younger students mentoring others helping others. I have been reading yours and Mahmoud’s writing and all I see is problems and complaints and NO ANSWERS stop reread his speech and think a bit the Gulf is not going to support the cheap bread and fuel for ever FOR YOU and the west is gone The brothers took Egypt back 10 years the Falooul another 5 years by only patching the problems your third of the population so far has been good at starting revolutions 2 now it may be time for the middleclass and seculars types if you like to wake up freedom is not anarchy its got a price by serving your country Army police schools hospitals cleaning roads mentoring our youth Its not about bitching and starting a third revolution you will end up way behind the 8 ball with the next one Syria is my only example I can use

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