Egyptian MPs criticize rise of public debt to LE 5 trillion, warn against corruption

The Egyptian Cabinet and Ministry of Planning and Economic Development came under fire on Monday by Egyptian MPs for the country’s rise of public debt to LE 5 trillion.

The criticism, which also included frustration with the cabinet’s failure to exploit foreign grants and spend on health and education sectors, came after Economic Development Minister Hala al-Saeed delivered a statement to the plenary session of the House of Representatives on Monday.

Undersecretary for the Parliament’s plan and budget committee, Mostafa Salem, said that the committee rejected many loans, with the government’s public debt reaching LE 5 trillion, of which LE 1.1 trillion were foreign debts. He added that the Ministry of International Cooperation signed off on 151 loans, 32 of which are stalled grants and nine other which are not being used.

He demanded an explanation to determine who was responsible.

MP Freddy al-Bayady criticized the government’s lack of commitment to spending according to the constitutionally-mandated budgets on Egypt’s health and education sectors, considering it a crime against the country.

Bayady also said that what the cabinet announced about poverty rate falling to less than 29 percent was untrue.

“It’s a shame to not announce the facts, as the whole world is suffering. A study by the National Planning Institute last May confirmed that the poverty rate is 44 percent,” he stated.

“Egypt’s rank in the fight against corruption is 117 out of 180 countries,” Bayady said, warning that corruption swallows up any development rates.

Suleiman Wahdan, an MP for the Wafd Party, said that grants are a big source of corruption, as many associations and ministries receive grants that are not used, and no one seems to know anything about them.

During the session, Saeed presented funding sources for development plans and programs in cooperation between the ministry and the private sector, civil society organizations, and regional and international sovereign funds, through the establishment of Egypt’s Sovereign Fund.

Saeed confirmed that the economy achieved a growth rate of 3.6 percent during the previous fiscal year, as Egypt was among few countries that achieved positive growth during the coronavirus pandemic. She pointed out that the economy is forecasted to achieve a growth rate of 5.8 percent.

She said that the annual unemployment rate decreased from 13 percent in 2014 to 7.9 percent in 2019, the inflation rate decreased to 5.7 percent in 2019/2020, its lowest level in 14 years, and the poverty rate decreased for the first time since 1999 to 29.7 percent compared to 32.5 percent in 2017/2018.

Egypt’s position in global indicators, such as roads and electricity as well improved, Saeed mentioned, pointing out that the Committee for Regulating and Limiting Foreign Borrowing rejected and postponed 45 percent of 85 borrowing requests.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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