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December 31, 2014

In his first six month Sisi gets A not A+

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Italy, Russia, France, Greece, Cyprus and China are an impressive list of countries that Egypt has reached out to, in the last six months, to further develop its international relations.

The list soon will include the US, the UK, the Sub-Sahara African countries, Central and South East Asian and South American countries.

The international investment conference, to be held in March in the Sinai city of Sharm El-Sheikh opened to top investors from around the world, will be a milestone in Egypt’s international relations.

President Abdel Fattah El Sisi domestic record of achievements in his first six months in office is as impressive.

For the first time in Egyptian history minimum wage is set by law across all sectors and also maximum wage is enforced for all government employees including the president.

Some of the high paid public civil servants including managers of government-owned banks, threatened to resign in mass to protest the government putting a ceiling on maximum wage. Sisi wished them luck if they resigned. They did. But the nation considered them a greedy rich people no more.

To set an example Sisi not only declared his salary but also donated half of it to the national charity institution Tahia Masir, the Long Live Egypt Fund (LLEF). The LLEF is Sisi’s brainchild. He went one step further by donating half of what he inherited from his family to LLEF. He asked rich Egyptians to follow his example. Many did.

He appointed an impressive board of trustees for the LLEF to be in charge of fundraising and spending including ex-Grand Mufti Dr. Ali Gomaa, businessmen Mohamed Al-Amin and Naguib Sawiris, in addition to government representatives.

He has also encouraged Al-Azhar to establish the Zakat House – similar to the one many Muslim countries have - for Muslims to pay their alms instead of paying it to questionable organizations.

Al-Azhar and the Church has also set up Bet Al Aeela – Our Family Home - to educate Muslims and Copts on accepting one another and also to resolve disputes between them before they get worse.

He imposed new capital gain tax and increased income tax on the rich. To regulate prices of basic goods for the poor he increased government outlets for the sale of those goods.

The economy is recovering leading to a stable exchange rate for the dollar and Egypt’s international credit rating has been upgraded for the first time after being downgraded four times since January 2011.

Direct foreign investment totaled $4.7 billion in 2014 and expected to double in 2015. New exploration agreements for gas and oil were signed valued at $2 billion in 2014.  A Cairo-Alexandria high-speed train at the cost of $1 billion and a fourth line for Cairo underground at $3.6 billion is planned.

Recent visit of Sisi to China netted strategic agreements between the two countries in scientific research, oil and gas exploration, space technology, university education, anti-terrorism technology and also in international trade through the renewal of “the silk road” between China, African and Arab countries via Egypt.

Sisi did a reaching out to a large segment of Egyptians, including youth groups, journalists, academics, writers, artists, business people, political leaders and researchers.

He responded to retirees by setting a minimum income. Low-income housing is a mega project in progress that will benefit many. Government subsidies have been channeled only to those who deserve it. He doubled state funding of the arts.

The New Suez Canal including its follow up development projects is the flagship of Sisi’s economic plan.

Egypt’s annual income from the NSC will double from its current level of $5 billion by next year. The NSC development projects will add ten times that amount annually five years. Infra structure projects of new roads totaling an impressive 3400 km, water treatment stations, new cities, hospitals, schools and museums have already started.

Tourists are back and their numbers are double what they were a year ago.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s terrorism and their support for vandalism by the youth against universities and government buildings including electric towers are on the way down.

The support the MB gets from Turkey, Qatar and Hamas with the blessing of the US has been exposed. Egypt is sending a clear message to the world: terrorism is terrorism; you can’t fight it in Syria and Iraq and support it in Egypt.

The MB is listed as a terrorist organization not only in Egypt, but also in Saudi Arabia, the leading conservative Muslim country.

On the political front, Sisi ratified electoral district law for the upcoming parliamentary election early in 2015. The law grantees fair representation, for the first time for politically marginalized groups including women, youth, Copts and Egyptians living abroad.

For achieving all of the above in six months, Sisi deserves an A. But why not an A+?

Because Sisi has not yet addressed two very important factors that will gobble up much of the benefits of his economical development’s projects.

The first is over consumption especially of harmful goods – Egypt is at the top in lung cancer because of smoking and one of the ten countries in diabetes because of obesity.

Secondly is Egypt’s high birth rate – 2 million new born every year that need a NSC projecting every six months to keep up with the cost of health care, education, housing and new jobs. I hope soon he will address these two challenges.

Tahia Masir - Long Live Egypt and all the best for 2015.

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