The answered prayer of Ramadan…and the concerns of the Egyptian people – Mustafa Kamel Al-Sayed

Ramadan is not only the month of fasting, but it is the month in which many Egyptians, both male and female, believe that sincere supplication to God is an answered prayer. Fortunately, this year, the month of Ramadan coincides with the beginning of the great fast of our Egyptian Christian sisters and brothers, and given that the concerns of the Egyptian people are mostly common, when they come together… Christians and Muslims pray that God Almighty will help them in relieving the burden of these public problems. Their hope is that their messages will reach heaven, and that the response will be by easing the burden of these problems on them.
Of course some will wonder what problems am I talking about? Didn’t Egypt conclude a contract with an Emirati company that pumps thirty-five billion dollars into Egypt in its first months, and promises that Egypt will receive thirty-five percent annually of the profits of its ambitious project in the future? Also, the Egyptian government is about to sign a new agreement with the International Monetary Fund under which it will receive… Eight billion dollars, followed by an injection of billions exceeding ten from the World Bank, the European Union, and Egypt’s economic partners, especially from the Gulf states?
For weeks, we have been afraid of the government’s limited access to international currencies, and we fear that we will not be able to pay the installments and service of the foreign debt due this year, and now we are about to receive tens of billions of dollars, so how can we not be happy?! Instead of praying to heaven to lighten our burdens, we extend our sincere thanks to it for bringing us out of a state of despair and despair to a state of optimism and confidence in the future.
Also, with regard to the conflict areas around all our borders, Egyptian diplomacy does not hesitate to exert all its efforts to reach political solutions to these problems. Food aid to Palestinian sisters and brothers flows through the Rafah Corridor, and the Egyptian Air Force drops this aid on them in Gaza, not to mention the efforts to reach a truce in which Egypt participates, and these efforts are ongoing, and the Egyptian government’s communications continue with all the conflicting parties in Sudan and Libya.
Indeed, no fair observer can do anything but acknowledge that the economic situation opens a door to hope, and that the situation around Egypt is controlled by regional and international parties with whom Egypt communicates. There may be no other easy alternatives to what the Egyptian government is already doing, but the same fair observer will realize Everything that inspires hope also comes with enormous challenges that we may need heaven’s help to be able to face successfully. I will not be able to discuss these challenges in detail, which this article does not allow, nor does the patience of fasting readers who would like to hear or read something that eases their patience with hunger and thirst in this holy month allow.

International Monetary Fund agreement
There are certainly good things in this agreement, including the insistence on the principle of budget unity, so that no more than half of the Egyptian state’s revenues are outside the budget prepared by the Ministry of Finance, and including reducing the grip of state agencies on production and services activity, which does not consider economic management as one of its functions. Its basic tasks, but the result of this agreement is that the Egyptian economy enters a period of contraction in which the growth rate decreases, and the difficulty of providing decent job opportunities for male and female citizens or alleviating the severity of poverty that currently affects much more than a third of them, according to previous official statistics, becomes increasingly difficult.
This contraction is inevitably the result of the Fund’s call on the Egyptian government to tighten its monetary and financial policies. We have already seen the government’s response to this demand by raising the interest rate at banks to 27.5 percent, which exhausts project owners in all sectors of the economy, and the flexible management of the exchange rate has reduced the value of the pound, and thus increased what these business owners can pay to obtain income. Dollars, and even if foreign currencies were available in banks, and this is not certain, at least in the short term, these project owners may not be able to provide what is necessary to purchase their foreign currency needs to finance the imported production requirements necessary for their production. In addition, raising the price of the dollar will necessarily lead to raising the prices of intermediate goods, food, and medicines that we import from abroad, and of course weakens the purchasing power of individuals. Therefore, instead of this agreement leading to advancing development in Egypt, it will, and this is almost certain in the short term, enter The economy is in a stage of depression coupled with inflation, from which we will suffer as consumers and producers.
No one denies that exporters will benefit from lowering the prices of Egyptian exportable goods. But most of our production is directed to the domestic market, and it will require a huge jump in the volume of our exports in order to cover the huge gap between our imports, which currently exceed the value of our exports by almost double.

Ras El Hekma Project
There is no doubt that agreeing on this project will contribute to giving the Egyptian economy a breathing period. Instead of bearing the constant worry about how to pay our foreign obligations this year, it will provide, within two months – as the government stated – enough at least to alleviate this burden. No one can be certain to what extent the burden of paying installments and servicing the external debt will decrease this year, for which estimates of all our external obligations vary widely, ranging between $24 billion, $42 billion, and $69 billion when we include what must be paid to foreign oil companies operating in Egypt and the repatriation of investors’ profits. Foreigners, but important questions arise that cannot be answered by the lack of information revealed by the government regarding this project. First, what is the legal basis for the government’s sale of a large area of ​​up to 170 million square meters?
As of the moment of writing these lines, this project has not been discussed in the House of Representatives, and no law has been issued regarding it, and therefore we do not know the legal basis on which it was based. It is true that some press reports indicated that the lands that the government gave up to the holding company that will manage the project are among the lands belonging to one of the sovereign ministries. The second question relates to whether this project constitutes a departure from the pattern of economic activity that has become the favorite activity of the state and major private sector companies. It is simply land trading. The government sells lands in the administrative capital and in the summer capital in El Alamein, and keeps these revenues away from the state budget. The major companies in the private sector are the contracting companies that obtain lands from the state, and sell them to citizens in the form of spaces that they build for housing or work. Or in the form of luxury housing and apartments in new resorts in major cities and the northern coast.
Thus, instead of the government being preoccupied with promoting correct development by jumping in industrial and agricultural production and productive services, we find the government with all its apparatuses and the major companies in the private sector engaged in land trading. Therefore, the agricultural and manufacturing sectors become among the least developed sectors, while they are precisely what economic and social development requires. It is what ensures bridging the gap between our imports and exports in a way that avoids us falling into a debt crisis from which we do not know how we will get out. After paying $35 billion from the holding company for this project this year, we have to wait for the project to be completed, which will take years, but we will obtain from it 35% of its profits, after Al-Hail helped us pay the external debt due this year.
It is true that the plan for the Ras El Hekma project includes an advanced industrial zone, but the experience of all companies involved in the project is limited to establishing luxury resorts, and the propaganda for the project focuses on the luxury resorts that will be built, an international hotel chain, a marina for yachts, and an airport to receive tourists, and there are no details about this industrial zone. . While acknowledging that this project could generate demand for the products of construction and road companies, and consequently increase the demand for labor in these companies, this does not negate that the Ras al-Hikma project, despite its magnitude and ambition, is a continuation of the same economic policy trend throughout the last ten years, while experts call for… The economy must break away from this pattern that has bequeathed to us the critical economic situation that has been our great concern over the past months. There is an important understanding of development that seeks to integrate traditional societies into the development process so that they benefit from them and they benefit from them.
The Ras Al-Hekma project will not harm the preservation of traditional communities in the space allocated for it while developing them, and they, in turn, will become an area of ​​attraction there. I remember that during my visit to the city of Doha, the capital of Qatar, which is a city of skyscrapers, its visitors, male and female citizens, found their happiness when they walked around and frequented the cafes and restaurants of the neighborhood that was rebuilt to match old Doha, and this is the lesson I learned from the Italian city planning experts, with whom I worked for two years. in Rome. They believed that the development of old neighborhoods and cities was to preserve and continue their character alongside the new neighborhoods and cities.

Our prayers to the Mighty and Answerer in Ramadan
Perhaps my dear male and female readers realize and understand why I find that the month of Ramadan is the appropriate month in which we turn to the dear and generous Muslims and Christians in prayer to enable us to confront these internal challenges in Egypt and the challenges of the brutal war that Israel is waging against our brothers and sisters in Gaza. There is no way for us to withstand. Victory over these enormous challenges can only be achieved thanks to Him, but we must also realize that the divine will only rewards those who work, and therefore we must strive to deserve heaven’s help.

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