Yasser Koura, assistant head of Al Wafd Party for parliamentary and political affairs, said that the party has been dissatisfied with the economic performance of the government over the past period and the way it handled arising issues.
He told Daily News Egypt that the current government has modest potential, especially with its announcement of 5% targeted growth rates by the end of this fiscal year.
The New Wafd Party has not determined its stance regarding the presidential candidate they would support, awaiting a clearer vision, Koura said.
The government’s targeted growth rates are not keeping up with the performance of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, he said.
How do you assess the performance of the government during the past period?
The government’s performance is very modest compared to the performance of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who has large ambitions. The government should be able to keep up with this in order for citizens to feel a difference.
However, many economic decisions were delayed for far too long, including the floatation decision. It was also necessary to study the negative impacts of the decision on low-income citizens and resorting to borrowing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Has Al Wafd rejected the floatation decision and the decision of borrowing from the IMF?
As I have previously said, the government took too long to implement the floatation, which obliged the state to implement it suddenly without sufficient study or preparation regarding some legislation of the investment law. This caused the collapse of the pound against the dollar.
What happened was that the investment law was passed with its regulations following the floatation decision by nearly eight months, while the opposite should have happened.
The dollar rate reaching EGP 20 was painful for the Egyptian economy. We have demanded social protection net for citizens before the floatation, because prices increased by 150-200% since early November.
Regarding the government’s decision to borrow from the IMF, we reject the way it was carried out. We refused the fact that the first batch of the loan was received at the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and then later discussed in parliament. This is a clear breach of the constitution because what is there to discuss if the first batch worth $2.75bn was already obtained and followed by the second batch worth $1.25bn which was received in July?
In addition, the government has not provided parliament with sufficient studies regarding using the loan and its repayment period, nor the positive impacts of obtaining that loan.
Al Wafd was against borrowing from the IMF. It does not make sense to have the state be indebted with over $80bn in foreign debt.
We want to have a system whose performance shows coordination between the different government agencies and the CBE. One agency working in isolation will not help. The decision to float the Egyptian pound ended up giving traders the freedom to manipulate citizens under the lack of government supervision.
It does not make sense for the price of one tonne of steel to be EGP 12,000 while abroad it is worth EGP 9,000. Importation is prohibited for whose best interest? This way, local industry is not protected and not being competitive enough.
Why was the objection not made clear inside parliament, especially that you have a parliamentary bloc of over 40 members?
We have objected to many of the recent economic decisions and the way the IMF loan was passed inside parliament, as well as the border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia, known as “Tiran and Sanafir Islands” case. Al Wafd has clear stances that no one can doubt.
However, there is the Egypt Support Coalition which represents the parliamentary majority. Besides, political parties overall have their issues, and it is easy to see that.
What do you mean that parties have their issues?
The state is completely ignoring political parties and their figures as well as their young people. There has been deliberate disregard over the past period.
Citizens do not feel the role of political parties despite their clear presence. Al Wafd alone has presented over 35 legislations during the past two legislative terms. The right question to ask here would be whether or not these drafts are passed. The coalition that includes the majority is the one who passes the draft laws presented by the government.
You said that you have a parliamentary bloc of over 40 members, and a deputy parliament speaker, in addition to three heads of parliament’s specialised committees. How do you explain citizens’ feelings that the party is absent in many of the recent issues?
Al Wafd was the only party to present draft laws in parliament and was the only one to issue an entire study about its stance on the border demarcation agreement with Saudi Arabia over Tiran and Sanafir islands. We encouraged a referendum to decide on this issue.
We have used all our parliamentary monitoring tools over the past two legislative sessions, including questions, briefings, and interrogations of the government. But they all get frozen rather than passed to be presented in a public session.
The party cannot impose its opinion with the presence of a majority bloc in the parliament, which is the Egypt Support Coalition, which considers itself the only representative of Egyptians and sees the rest as people who do not belong to the country. This coalition should have been independent rather than supported by the government.
The supervisory and legislative role of parliament is weak. And I believe it is important for it to have another role rather than have its sole role be approving decisions.
And there were several cases in which the stance of Al Wafd was clear, especially in the recent incident of Bahariya Oasis after which the minister of interior who was responsible for it should have been dismissed. Instead, only security chiefs were dismissed.
Does that make you consider forming coalitions with other political parties in parliament?
Forming grand coalitions with other political parties in parliament to support Egypt is an idea that has been discussed more than once.
We have to know that Al-Wafd Party is a liberal party that, in the end, will never unite with left-wing parties. This is not a political bloc, but an electoral one.
There is a misconception among parliament members, that if you are not a part of the grand Egypt Support Coalition, then you are against the state. We are not the banned Muslim Brotherhood or terrorists to be seen and treated like that, we believe in both revolutions, whether 25 January or 30 June, just like all parliament members.
I cannot say that Al-Wafd Party is the opposition party in parliament as there is no ruling party that have a majority in parliament.
In each legislative session, the issue of allocating 10% of the GDP to certain sectors such as education, health, and scientific research arises. How does Al-Wafd Party view this?
Al-Wafd Party has an integrated vision on the three files. The issue is not only related to the provision of financial allocations to the three sectors. Al-Wafd Party, for example, believes education requires a vision that entails three-dimensional work related to the development of educational curricula, the rehabilitation of teachers, and the third involves a future plan for the needs of the labour market in different areas.
We can benefit from the experiences of countries that were underdeveloped and behind us, but now became very advanced in terms of education quality as well as scientific research. In addition to that, without a comprehensive plan in which all the efforts of the state will be combined, there will be no progress in this regard.
As for the health, we believe that government hospitals with their existing services should be developed in parallel with the participation of the private sector as well as the development of this sector so that free services can be financed because a 3% spending rate is not enough for the sector.
The government recently announced that it will not raise fuel prices before the end of the fiscal year. How does Al-Wafd Party view future increases?
We reject any new increases in the price of fuel during the current period, and we will oppose it strongly. Citizens do not have the ability to bear additional financial burdens, especially since the recent economic decisions so far are not felt by people. The increase in the fuel prices will lead us to a crazy phase of price inflation.
How does Al-Wafd Party see the recent national projects implemented by the government?
The government had to prioritise and divide their plans to three types of projects, they had to start with short-term projects so that citizens would feel the effects quickly, medium-term, and then long-term projects for future generations.
The state needs all these kinds and cannot dispense with any of them, but the challenge is to arrange priorities and strike a balance between them.
There were very good initiatives by the president, especially the provision of EGP 200bn for small and micro enterprises, yet banks did not implement this initiative and there is fear of it stumbling.
This initiative, if implemented, would have been able to move the economy vigorously from the base and increase employment rates for young people.
What is your stance towards the upcoming presidential elections?
We have not yet determined our position on the upcoming presidential elections, especially since the map is not yet clear. Also, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has not officially announced his candidacy so far.
Will you support Al-Sisi if he runs for a new term?
The party will support any candidate who has a vision for the benefit of the country.
Are you satisfied with the performance of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi?
The president works alone, has ambition, patriotism, and great belonging to this country. But the government is not as quick as the president, and we are satisfied with his performance during the current presidential term.