The state of Egypt’s economy is being blamed on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi by foreign analysts. The Egyptian economy continues to struggle despite the large sums of loans and aid poured into the country by neighboring Gulf states. Yet despite such factors, President el-Sisi and his cabinet accomplished much more than expected in two years.
When el-Sisi came to power in 2014, the country had already endured two revolutions and three years of economic downfall. Power outages, terrorist groups, extremism, corruption, aging infrastructure, an unaccountable police force and an inefficient bureaucracy are just a few examples of the hundreds of challenges the government had — and still has — to deal with.
There are also external factors: the unstable surrounding region, the Islamic State group, potential enemies along the Nile Basin and the threat of powerful foreign countries intervening in domestic affairs. It is impossible to expect any head of state to tackle these issues in a matter of years, but the strides taken by el-Sisi and his cabinet cannot go unnoticed.
Egypt has been governed under the policy of subsidies for decades as successive governments relied on such policies for survival. Yet by continuing to borrow and spend to keep prices low, before 2014 the state had spent over $96 billion on energy subsidies, not including the cost of subsidies for other essential goods.
This stagnation changed when el-Sisi came to power; many subsidies were cut and the government suddenly had the limited ability to start paying back debt. A year after el-Sisi took office, Egypt’s external debt fell 13.9 percent, $39.9 billion dollars. The cut allowed the Egyptian government to save up to 51 billion Egyptian pounds. For that reason, Egypt’s credit ratings improved and agencies like Moody’s raised Egypt’s rating outlook from negative to stable.
Infrastructure is a backbone for any economy, and the most basic foundation needed today is electricity access. Egypt has historically failed to produce enough electricity to meet consumption levels. In 2011, electricity usage was 20 percent more than production. Now Egypt has a surplus of energy production and el-Sisi also boosted the use of renewable energy with new wind power plants and solar farms. In order to transform Egypt into a country of manufacturing and industry, el-Sisi has signed contracts with Russia to build Egypt’s first nuclear plant, which will provide Egypt with nuclear power in 2024.
Despite difficult economic times, a parallel Suez Canal was built, costing $8.4 billion, all of which donated by ordinary Egyptians. It is not usual to see millions have confidence in a leader, not only ideologically but financially. Expectations were realized when the project came under completion in just one year and doubled the canal’s capacity from 49 to 97 ships per day.
The canal is only a glimpse of the developments made in Egypt. New tunnels, development of five seaports, new industrial zones and a technology valley are projects that have already been completed. In addition, el-Sisi also began the National Roads Initiative, which set a goal to construct a 4,400 kilometers of roadways, making up 10 percent of Egypt’s road network.
At this point, the flip side of el-Sisi’s current reign cannot be disregarded. Following the coup against the democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi in July 2011, which over 30 million Egyptians supported, el-Sisi imprisoned and tried hundreds of Morsi’s party members in the Muslim Brotherhood. El-Sisi has also had tension with media groups and outlets who have been accused of inciting chaos in domestic affairs. Couple this with reports of corruption and clientelism in his administration, it then becomes clear how el-Sisi’s reign, while very popular, still needs reform.
Even with such a record, Egyptians did recognize el-Sisi’s coup as brave and patriotic and firmly did desire an end to the economic and political crises that plagued Morsi’s administration. El-Sisi’s grasp on security and stability makes him a hero for citizens no matter the consequences or other shortfalls of his presidency. From a certain lens, Egypt is stronger than before due to the nation’s unity under the leadership of el-Sisi.
Wasil Rezk is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. NILESCOPE appears every other Tuesday.
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