By Abdel Qader Ramadan
Governor of the Central Bank Hisham Ramez announced Monday the opening of a new bank account under the number 037037, a reference to the date on which President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi declared the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi.
The account, Ramez said, will be known as the “Long Live Egypt Fund”, borrowing from Al-Sisi’s election campaign slogan, and has been set up to collect donations to support the economy.
A number of businessmen launched an initiative to support Egypt following the events of 30 June under the 306306 Fund, headed by Farouk El Okda, former governor of the Central Bank. The fund amassed close to EGP 1bn, including a donation of EGP 300m from the armed forces.
The idea of creating funds or opening accounts to support the economy flourished following the 25 January Revolution, including the 2512011 account, as well as the 333-333 Egypt Renaissance account.
Economic researcher at Stanford University Amro Adly said that the establishment of a fund to collect donations is a “populist measure” that falls short of an economic solution, as the idea is not sustainable and fails to address the issue of accumulating government debt. Solving the problem requires a restructuring of state revenues and expenses, he said.
“The president is employing his popularity, utilising a national speech to pass austerity measures that do not always enjoy popular support, such as decreasing subsidies and increasing taxes, and marketing these measures to public opinion at a time when the country is embroiled in political turmoil,” said Adly.
Al-Sisi announced Tuesday he would forego half of his monthly salary and half of his wealth and property, which he would cede “to Egypt”.
The remarks came during a speech at a graduation ceremony for a new group of students from the National Military Academy, in which he also called on Egyptians to avoid extravagance during the month of Ramadan.
Sisi said that that he receives a salary of EGP 42,000, the maximum government wage, and as this is more than what he needs currently, he is willing to cede half. He pointed out that he issued directives for no government employees to receive more than this amount.
Sisi said that he “will not respond to any sectarian demands to increase wages,” pointing out that these demands “do not recognise the nature of the current economic situation in Egypt”.
He asked Egyptians at home and abroad to take similar measures.