Controversy stirred among parliament members (MPs) over a bill calling to cut subsidies for families’ third child as a way to regulate population growth, as some saw it as unconstitutional, while others welcomed it.
The MPs’ comments came in response to calls of some public figures to enforce a bill that was previously drafted to prevent subsidies for the third child in order to combat the increasing population growth rate.
However, calls for enforcement of the bill, drafted earlier this year by MP Mohamed Masoud, returned following statements of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi during the sixth National Youth Conference calling for Egyptians to regulate their offspring.
The bill, which included 13 articles, called on that state to develop and implement a residential programme aimed at balancing population growth rates by not giving benefits for a third child. The bill sought to label a family with four members as an “outstanding family”, which could receive distinguished treatment when willing to receive a loan for small projects.
The head of the Conservative Party parliamentary bloc, Hala Abu El-Saad, said in a televised phone interview with Al-Nahar TV channel on Tuesday that the draft law is illegal, as Article 53 of the Egyptian Constitution requires equality of rights among citizens.
However, she continued that the state needs to gradually cut subsidies to solve the debt deficit, but it cannot currently remove subsidies for third children. “Egyptian citizens are suffering currently, which will be hard to lift support for some services.”
She concluded that the problem of the population increase is a social problem, which can be solved through several methods, such as awareness to reduce the intensity of growth.
During the youth conference, the president suggested regulating births and that each family should give a chance for itself of at least three or four years between each child. “Two children per family are enough,” he stated.
Al-Sisi asserted that the state is making great efforts in the file of population growth and that Egypt needs a long time to feel a result, as the issue emerged in the eras of former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak.
The president also added that the state has refused to take legal action to limit the increase in population, whether through imposing fines or depriving citizens of privileges granted by the state.
Meanwhile, MP Ahmed Rafaat said that the bill is constitutional, will achieve equality, and will not be applied retroactively.
He added that the law aims to reduce the population increase and provide support to those who are need, saying, “The neediest citizens are not receiving support, and corruption controls the support; the law will contribute to the delivery of support to those who really need it.”
The MP suggested that preventing families from enjoying privileges of state subsidies for a third child will help to save more benefits for those who are in need.
He concluded that lifting support for the third child would achieve social justice so that childbearing would not become a form of trade, since the state is supporting all children, keeping in mind that the state would not be able to provide support to citizens if the population growth continued, and many families would remain below the poverty line.