Two years after he took office as president, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi appeared in a televised interview on Friday with TV anchor Osama Kamal to discuss the achievements and challenges he has faced during his term as the country’s leader.
During the interview, Al-Sisi delved into several issues, including corruption, the mega national projects being carried out by the state, and freedom among many other issues.
Al-Sisi stressed in the interview that there are “forces of evil” conspiring against the Egyptian state that aim to destroy it. He refused to mention who they are because, according to him, the Egyptian people know exactly who they are.
During his interview, the president delved into the corruption file, stressing that monitoring bodies are working without any restrictions and there is no interference in their work whatsoever.
“There should be full trust in the monitoring bodies and their procedures, and the culture of combating corruption should prevail, we should not only rely on the monitoring procedures to counter corruption,” said Al-Sisi.
He added that the abundance of information is the way to combat corruption and when the state intervened to combat corruption it managed to provide EGP 200-300bn as an attempt to counter dishonesty and bribery, which he considers as not a small sum of money.
Despite the president’s acknowledgment of the corruption in state organisations, he sacked Hesham Geneina, the former head of the Central Auditing Organisation (CAO), in May after Geneina claimed public funds amounting to EGP 600bn were wasted due to state corruption in 2015.
National projects throughout the past two years
Al-Sisi said that there are several national mega projects that were inaugurated at the same time over the past two years because “we are behind” and the state needs many development projects.
The Suez Canal Development Project was not only executed for its economic importance, Al-Sisi said. He said the project could have been executed in five years, but the one year turn-around was “uplifting” experience for the country.
His statement comes amid several arguments that the new Suez Canal Development Project was a waste of the state’s resources and it has no economic feasibility.
Al-Sisi further said that the state is currently managing eight national projects, which are being executed by about 1,000 companies and 2 million Egyptian workers. He denied claims that military forces are dominating over and executing all these projects.
“The role of military forces is supervisory and organisational,” Al-Sisi asserted.
In response to the backlash pertaining to the New Administrative Capital and the claims that there were several alternatives by which the money could have been invested, Al-Sisi said that he has already executed several housing projects and confirmed that all the projects that are being managed currently will bring up their profits in the short term.
Youth, freedom of speech, and the media
Al-Sisi said that he is not particularly angry with young people because he considers them to be his “children”. They should have opportunities and it is the state’s mission to provide them, the president said.
He added that there is an unprecedented awareness among young people which enables them to differentiate between what is good and what will cause national harm.
Concerning social media platforms, Al-Sisi said a great deal of information is circulating on these websites which is good, however, he also warned that young people should stay aware as they do not know who is sharing this information and their hidden motives.
Al-Sisi stressed that 90% of current prisoners are imprisoned due to crime-related charges, and the rest represent a very small percentage. “I already released three presidential pardons and the fourth will be soon,” he said.
Regarding freedom of speech and expression, Al-Sisi said that everyone now has the freedom to express their opinions, following five years of revolution there are no restrictions on anyone.
“We have already overcome the phase of oppressing freedom of speech, but we need to do it in a framework that will serve the country,” Al-Sisi said.
He added that several countries have addressed him to consider the freedoms issue in Egypt, but he argued that these countries should redefine their concept of freedoms and rights.
“Health, education, and work are all rights and freedoms, why can’t they redefine the concept of freedoms to include these terms?”Al-Sisi said.
In response to the claims that there is a dispute with the press, Al-Sisi denied any disputes with the media. However, he said that the media in Egypt is free and no media system anywhere in the world operates without leadership.
There is an unprecedented media freedom in Egypt, but sometimes, media figures say things that are, unintentionally, not for the sake of the country, the president said.
Although Al-Sisi said Egypt has not violated any freedoms and has a free media, several international organisations have raised their concerns for detainees of freedom of speech and expression, citing 20 journalists that are currently behind bars as well as unfair trials in which at least 3,000 civilians stood trial before a military court.
Tiran and Sanafir islands
During his interview, Al-Sisi said that not only was there a maritime demarcation deal with Saudi Arabia, but there will be another one with Greece, saying that Egypt is missing out on a major opportunity to mine for metals in the Red Sea and the Mediterranean if the maritime issue is not discussed.
In April, Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement in order to transfer the sovereignty of Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia. The maritime demarcation agreement will be discussed in the parliament to decide whether the decision will be ratified or not.The decision sparked uproar among the activists who accused Al-Sisi of selling Egyptian territories. Several protests occurred in opposition to the agreement on 25 April and many young people were arrested as a result of these protests. They are currently facing charges of protesting without a permit.
During his interview, Al-Sisi said that he is not denying young people their right to protest, but they should protest in a legal way.
The unrest in Sinai
One of the files Al-Sisi delved into during his interview was Sinai. He said that the unrest in Sinai only occurs in 5% of its total area, making the attention directed at Sinai unprecedented at the moment.
We must wait another two years until we see relevant change in Sinai, he added.
Sinai has been experiencing unrest since the ouster of the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. It has become the scene of frequent clashes between militants and state security forces.
Education, health, and the US dollar crisis
Al-Sisi said the education problem is unlikely to be solved in the short-term; however, if tackled successfully, significant improvement would take no more than 13 years. The health sector is in a similar situation.
He added that a total of 5.7% and 11.1% of government spending is allocated to the education and healthcare sectors, respectively, and there are several calls to increase this for both sectors.
Regarding the US dollar crisis, Al-Sisi said the imports have changed significantly and the process has become easier; however, the economic crisis is hitting the entire world and not just Egypt.
According to the president, the influx of tourists, and the tourism sector, is not as high as it used to be due to “forces of evil”.