After a minor cabinet reshuffle that saw 10 ministers replaced on 23 March, Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail is scheduled to deliver his government’s first policy statement before the House of Representatives Sunday.
Under Article 146 of the 2014 constitution, the policy statement must be debated by parliament within 30 days, after which it will be up to the house whether or not to vote with or withhold confidence in the government.
The session will be recorded and televised later, and will not be aired live, according to Ahmed Saad, secretary general of Egypt’s House of Representatives.
Parliament deputy speaker Al-Sayed Al-Sherif told reporters Saturday that Ismail’s statement will take around one hour to deliver and that the issue whether it will be aired live on television or not will be left to the majority of MPs to decide tomorrow.
“The sure thing is that a special parliamentary committee will be formed to discuss this statement, prepare a report about it within 10 days, and recommend whether it should be approved or not,” said Al-Sherif.
Al-Sherif said he is in favour of airing Ismail’s statement live on television.
“This is a national issue as highly important as President al-Sisi’s statement before parliament and I think it should be aired live,” said Al-Sherif, adding, “As the statement is directed to all Egyptians and not to parliament alone, it should be aired live.”
Al-Sherif said Ismail and all of his government’s 33 cabinet ministers will come to parliament tomorrow and that Ismail will hold a private meeting with parliament’s internal bureau before he delivers his government’s statement.
Al-Sherif said most MPs have already received print copies of Ismail’s statement for review Saturday, ahead of tomorrow’s session.
According to Article 146 of the constitution, if the government and its programme fails to gain parliament’s confidence within 30 days, the president of the republic will ask the majority party or coalition to form another government and name another prime minister within 30 days. If they fail to gain confidence, parliament would be considered dissolved.
Al-Sherif disclosed that the parliamentary committee that will be in charge of reviewing Ismail’s statement will include representatives from all political forces in parliament. “It will also include MPs who are experts in different fields, particularly finance and investment,” said Al-Sherif.
Ismail has already held meetings with MPs from different governorates in the past few days in an attempt to convince them to vote in favour of his government.
MPs told reporters that although they might have no choice but voting in favour of keeping Ismail’s government in office, they have strong tools to force its performance to serve the interests of the people more effectively.
MP Anwar Al-Sadat disclosed that “in their meetings with Ismail, MPs argued that the government’s policy statement must explain in clear-cut terms the government’s strategy to combat terrorism, fight corruption and improve public services.”
Sadat noted that Ismail’s government resorted to devaluing the Egyptian pound without getting parliament’s prior consent.
“Ismail risked taking this decision before delivering its programme before parliament tomorrow because he knew quite well that it would be rejected by MPs,” said Sadat, adding that, “The most important thing now is to compel this government to make sure that the devaluation will not make it harder for millions of poor people meet their basic economic needs.”
In their meetings with Ismail, many MPs also warned that any plans to phase out subsidies on electricity and water or raise prices of basic goods or public transport could spark wide-scale street protests.
Independent MP Abdel-Moneim Al-Oleimi told reporters that Ismail’s 19 March meeting with Nile-Delta governorate of Al-Gharbiya MPs had shocked many of those who attended.
“Not only did Ismail paint a bleak picture of the Egyptian economy, he also had the guts to announce that the government has no money to spend on new projects or improve public services,” said Al-Oleimi.
“All Ismail said is that MPs should rally behind the government because we are all in the same boat and that we must work together to reduce the budget deficit, and tackle the trade balance, in order to weather the current economic crisis,” Al-Oleimi said.
Informed sources told reporters that the government’s programme to be presented before parliament tomorrow will include seven main points. “Ismail will vow that these points will be implemented by the end of June,” said an informed cabinet source, adding that, “This well-timed programme will make it much easier for parliament to review the government and judge its performance.”
The source disclosed that the first three points focus on safeguarding Egyptian national security, reinforcing democracy, and devising a new economic programme. “Other points will deal with achieving social justice and improving public services, and boosting development in industrial, agricultural and commercial sectors,” the source said.
The source indicated that Prime Minister Ismail might propose phasing out in-kind subsidies in favour of cash subsidies.
The remaining two points will focus on administrative reform (fighting corruption and enhancing transparency) and reinforcing Egypt’s leading role in the Arab world.
source: Ahram Online