Abolishing fuel subsidies to pay for education
THE talk in the corridors of power is now about excluding luxury cars from fuel subsidies, with the idea being to use the money this would save on other sectors, such as health, agriculture and, especially, education.
The budget of the education sector has decreased by 40 per cent since the 1990s.
Today, 3.4 per cent of the State budget is spent on education.
For 2009-10, this worked out at LE48 billion ($8.7 billion). One university professor says that this is inadequate and that at least 5 per cent of the budget should be spent on education and scientific research.
Some economists and educationalists support the move to stop the subsidised fuel for luxury cars, while others don't.
However, nearly everyone is in favour of ending the subsidies on the natural gas exported to Israel.
Mohamed Kamal, Chairman of Training and Cultural Committee in the National Democratic Party, says that officials are now discussing of restructuring subsidies, in order to boost the education sector.
Professor of Management Samir Abdul-Wahab of the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, Cairo University, stresses that any abolition of subsidies must not have a negative effect on the poor.
He says that the money spent on education isn't enough because the number of schoolchildren keeps increasing.
Samir Radwan, an economist, says that Egypt spends only $20 per annum on every schoolchild - less than any other country in the world. Turkey spends $500 per annum per pupil, European countries $1,200, he says. Professor Alia el-Mahdi, Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, stresses that, to take the pressure of the budget, postgraduate students should pay their own way.
She would like to see the subsidies on secondary school education stopped, while language school pupils shouldn't be subsidised when they go to university.
At the same time, Prof. Alia would like the best undergraduates to be given a monthly bonus of at least LE500 ($90). Abul Ezz el-Hariri, a former member of the Progressive National Unionist (Tagammu) Party, wants all the subsidies on Egyptian natural gas exported to Israel to be cancelled, as well as on the natural gas exported to both France and Turkey, and the money saved to be channelled into the education
The political parties have submitted programmes for upgrading education and some of them stress the need for continuing with the free education system, but none of them has announced how much they think ought to be spent on developing education.
Ahmed Abdul-Hadi, head of Young Egypt Party, is afraid that the prices of commodities will rise yet again, if the subsidies on petrol are demolished.
He told Al-Alam Al-Youm Arabic-language newspaper that Egypt needs a new educational system, stressing that the Ministry of Education officials should work on this.
Mounir Fakhri Abdul-Nour, a member of al-Wafd opposition party, agrees that the money spent on education is too little.
He says that his party has come up with a comprehensive educational programme,based on training teachers to improve their performance and developing the curricula, which would include the subjects of democracy, liberty and human rights.
Abdul-Nour stresses his party's commitment to free education.