Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi sat for an interview on Tuesday with the chief editors of Egypt’s public newspapers Al-Ahram, Al-Akhbar and Al-Gomhoriya to discuss the current challenges facing the country and the progress of developmental projects.
“The challenge is huge... when the defects are in all sectors, you can’t work in one sector and abandon the rest... I work on all sectors,” the president stated, adding that he has already made achievements such as ending power cuts and building new roads and airports.
“I state with all honesty that the army has been a great asset in the face of this challenge, and we might not have been able to face it and achieve what we have without them.”
El-Sisi also announced that half-a-million feddans will be ready for agricultural production by July as part of the 1.5 million feddans project, which aims to expand the country’s farmland by reclaiming land nationwide. The project was inaugurated in December 2015.
The president said that the project should “increase employment opportunities, increase the supply of agricultural products and decrease prices.”
He also added that EGP 5 billion have been spent on equipping cattle farms, out of an estimated EGP 100 billion slated for the million cattle project.
Some 24,000 cattle have been bought from Uruguay and Brazil, the president added, and estimated that the project will be completed within the next two years.
Meanwhile, the president also said that by the end of 2018, the cabinet and all state institutions will relocate to the new administrative capital, which is currently being built.
He added that the first residential block has been constructed in the new capital, and that the trade centre will be 50 to 100 floors and will be finished within five years.
The president said that the government will announce within the next few weeks measures aimed supporting the middle and lower income classes.
These measures will include changing the tax income brackets to increase the limits for tax exemption and increasing subsidies in the smart-card system for buying subsidised food.
“People are capable of understanding and feeling, citizens may be bothered by the increase in prices and bad services,” El-Sisi said, but added that citizens know that these bad services are left over from previous regimes, and improving them “takes time and sacrifice.”
“There are required taxes for improving the situation,” El-Sisi stated.
Egypt’s annual headline inflation registered 32.9 percent in April.
In November, the Central Bank of Egypt floated the local currency, which caused the value of the pound to plummet from EGP 8.8 against the dollar to an average of EGP 18.
The president also said that he recently sat with the heads of British Petroleum and German company Dea after the inauguration of gas fields in north Alexandria, and asked them to start production in 2018 instead of 2020.
El-Sisi said that gas produced from the fields in Alexandria, along with the giant Zohr field in the Mediterranean, will enable the country to save $3.6 billion out of the $30 billion the country spends yearly on gas imports.
In February, Egypt’s petroleum ministry said the country’s production of natural gas is currently estimated at around 4.4 billion cubic feet per day (bcfd), and is expected to increase by 1.5 bcfd by the end of 2017.
Earlier this month, Reuters reported that Egypt is holding talks with its liquefied natural gas (LNG) suppliers to defer contracted shipments this year and aims to cut back on purchases in 2018, as surging domestic gas production squeezes out demand for costly foreign imports.
The reports added that EGAS has already deferred about 10 shipments this year, with about 10-15 shipments left to go, trade sources said.
The president also stated that he will present a report to the public in early 2018 detailing the state of the country from before El-Sisi took charge until the end of his term.
El-Sisi's first term in office will end in July 2018.
According to the Egyptian constitution, a president can run for two four-year terms.
Reclaiming state land
President El-Sisi also announced that he will hold a conference in two weeks that will include the defence and interior ministers, governors, the heads of the military and police, who will announce their efforts to reclaim state lands illegally appropriated by private parties.
“Transgressions on the lands of the Egyptian people and the rights of the poor are a threat to Egypt’s security,” the president stated.
El-Sisi called on the media to take part in this “battle to reclaim the rights of the state and the people.”
He also called on youth to participate in the committees to reclaim these lands.
At a televised conference earlier this week, El-Sisi expressed frustration at delays in the ongoing process of reclaiming state land that has been appropriated illegally by private parties over the last few decades, urging the interior ministry and the Armed Forces to put an end to such transgressions.
In 2016, Sisi formed a national committee to address transgressions on state land in accordance with the law governing each authority.
The committee announced last December that it had restored 80,000 feddans of land illegally acquired at the expense of the state.