Several parliamentarians fiercely criticised the government during the first week of the parliament’s fifth round, addressing some controversial issues related to the country’s economic situation.
The fifth round, conveying in nine months, marks the last in legislative terms of the 2015 parliament. The next parliamentary election is expected in 2020.
Some demanded clarification from the government regarding pending laws, government salaries, and pensions, while others asked the government to respond to media campaigns distorting the state’s progress in fighting terrorism. Most of the members’ questions focused on the government’s efforts to improve living conditions of low-income citizens.
In response, the parliament speaker Ali Abdel Aal summoned some ministers over their performance and to illustrate what they are doing to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly is expected to address the parliament on Tuesday over Egypt’s economic conditions and the measures taken by the government to ease the negative impacts of economic reforms on the poor. On Wednesday, the Finance Minister Mohamed Moeit will attend the parliament’s general session to answer MPs’ questions on economic conditions and government salaries.
MPs Mohamed El-Olimi, Magdy Malak, and Mohamed Al-Abbasy called for an inquest on the delay in applying the minimum and maximum wages, excessive rentals for irrigated lands, land usufruct legislation, and how the government can benefit from confiscated cars.
Moeit is also supposed to participate in inquests on the lack of financial appropriations for many national projects, and the ministry’s policy in regard with determining salaries of new appointments and selection of beneficiaries of the Takaful and Karama social protection programme, and the reasons for the deterioration of the economic situation in the country and its impact on internal affairs.
As for critics of governmental performance, MP Ahmed Youssef Idriss, from the parliamentary bloc of Al-Wafd Party, criticised Mabdouly’s cabinet for not fully abiding to the directives of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to improve the living conditions of citizens under the recent economic reform. He urged that the government has put the parliament in a confrontation with the Egyptian street, after they failed to achieve the people’s aspiration.
“We will not stand silent against the government’s failure in delivering state services, especially health and education, and we will hold ministers accountable for negligence,” Idriss said.
“The parliament failed to provide a decent life for citizens, and fulfil their pledges to raise pensions,” he added.
On Saturday, MP Badri Daif, from the agriculture committee, called for a briefing by Madbouly and the Minister of Agriculture, Ezz El-Din Abu Setit, regarding the unsettled cotton prices, as well as the delay in purchasing crops from farmers.
The MP said the government has set the cotton selling price at EGP 2,100 per Kantar, but this price was unfair in light of the high production costs, which made farmers incur large losses.
Daif noted that the Constitution obliged the government to set a fair and appropriate price for agricultural crops in order to preserve the farmers’ interests, especially as agriculture is one of the most important components of the Egyptian economy.
“The cultivated areas of cotton this year are lower than those in the past years, and despite the good reputation of Egyptian cotton worldwide, it witnessed low sales rate this year,” he added.
Daif stressed the need for cooperation between the ministries of agriculture, trade, and finance, to resolve the crisis and determine a fair price, as well as ensuring the purchase of crops from farmers.
On a different note, Diaa El-Din Dawoud, a leftist MP, said, “The policies of current prime minister are not different from his predecessor Sherif Ismail, and that the two have been implementing the IMF agreement which made the ordinary citizens struggle.”
“Egypt needs clear policies that mainly serve poor citizens,’ he stressed.
Moreover, the independent MP and journalist Mostafa Bakri said, “Urgent measures are needed to reactivate Egypt’ political life and national media. The government should initiate a kind of reconciliation with poor and middle-income classes which suffered very much over the last three years.”
On the other hand, MP Salah Hasaballah said, “The performance of ministers and governors should be reviewed, where many of them have not fulfilled their role so far, and this is not acceptable in light of the development process happening in Egypt.”
Undersecretary of the House of Representatives, Soliman Wahdan, submitted a proposal to raise the value of the individual’s share in ration cards from EGP 50 to EGP 100. He added that such move will ease the financial burdens of the citizens and “will please millions of Egyptians.”
Wahdan called for accelerating the discussion of the proposal within the House of Representatives, and contact the ministries of supply and finance and all concerned parties to speed up the adoption of the legislation.
Moreover, MP Mohamed Abdullah Zain El-Din, called for a briefing to the Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy, Mohamed Shaker, on the random readings of electricity consumption which result in expensive bills.
In his request, Zain El-Din pointed out, “Some electricity metre readers are lazy or deliberately ignore reading the electricity metres so they accumulate metre readings for a long period up to three months, which ultimately upgrade some households to a higher consumption segment.” He demanded the Ministry of Electricity to hold those metre readers accountable.
He stressed that the adoption of the unified reading and charging programme by the Ministry of Electricity and the expansion of its application, to end random reading for metres.
The MP added that the expansion in installing smart metres contributes to solving the problem, because it displays the value of consumption and the remaining balance, which makes it easier for the subscriber to follow consumption and rationalise and control its value.
MPs directed most of their criticism at the Supply Minister Ali Moselhi due to his decision to strip EGP 2m from the ration cards.
Meanwhile, Ahmed Kahirallah, the parliamentary spokesperson of the Islamist Nour Party, said, “The hostile campaign against Egypt is planned by some fugitive elements living in Qatar and Turkey to disrupt the stability of the country, and turn its citizens into refugees as was the case in Syria, Libya, and Yemen.”
“There could be corruption and mismanagement, but this does not mean that we let these conspiratorial forces disrupt our country,” he added.
Commenting on parliamentarians’ call for the government to do more in the coming period, speaker Abdel Aal said last Tuesday that the parliament will hold firm stance to monitor the government, urging it to work more for ordinary citizens in his opening speech of the new round.
Abdel Aal added, “My message to this government, including governors, please do not run away from your responsibilities, and take all measures necessary to improve the living conditions of ordinary citizens,” he said.
The speaker also called on El-Sayed El-Sherif, undersecretary of the parliament, to further cooperate with government in order to improve the situation of citizens, noting that the Bureau of Parliament will have a meeting with heads of special committees to discuss ways to full cooperation. El-Sharif described the current parliament as a truly historic council, saying, “Over the past sessions, it performed his role to the fullest.”