President Sisi - File Photo
CAIRO - 27 July 2017: The hot topics that were discussed during the first day of the 4th National Youth Conference in Alexandria tackled terrorism, Qatari crisis, foreign affairs, prices’ hike, land encroachment, presidential elections and opening the stadium for the public possibly to resume. These topics were addressed by the President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi in the ‘Ask the President Initiative’ session. The topics were as follows:
Terrorism and Qatari crisis
Terrorism came on the forefront of people inquires as the round began with question about the state strategy in fighting terrorism, and its stance regarding Qatar practices.
The round began with a question about global issue terrorism, mainly focusing on the recent cutting ties with Qatar for supporting terrorism.
Citizen Hesham al-Fakhrany asked the president, “Since Egypt is heading the Arab quartet movement against Qatar support to terrorism, would we witness soon more pressure on this country to respond to the Arab demands.”
In response to the question, Sisi said the region has been suffering over the past seven years from interference in its affairs and the support for extremist groups, leading to damages that also impacted Egypt.
“We will continue our position, and will not back down a moment, because our demands are legitimate,” he added.
This was the first time that Sisi speaks directly about Qatar, as when speaking about terrorism in previous speech, the president was always mentioning that there are foreign countries that do support terrorism without him referring to a specific nationality.
However, Sisi had stressed multiple times on the necessity to counter funding and training of countries that harbor terrorist organizations.
Qatar has started a hostile policy with Egypt by showing support for the outlawed group of Muslim Brotherhood in 2013.
Interfering in countries affairs
“Egypt was clear in its policy to not conspire against other countries or interfere in their affairs,” Sisi said in response to countries accusing of Egypt is supporting their oppositions.
“We were very annoyed when Ethiopia and Sudan claimed our state is intervening in their internal affairs as that is against our policies,” he added.
Ethiopian and Sudanese officials has previously made allegation that there are groups in Egypt supporting oppositions in their countries, in which was rejected by Egypt in previous statements by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prices’ hike and constant salaries
Terrorism is not the only issue occupying people concerns, but also prices’ hike that became a major challenge for people to be able to sustain their lives. Prices’ hike at top of the country’s most discussed topic, amid salaries remaining stagnant.
A citizen has delivered a question to the president inquiring about the outcomes of the first pledge made in 2014 to improve the conditions, saying that he “did not see any progress or development in the recent years, even though promises to improve the economic and social conditions.”
Sisi said that conditions are difficult, asserting that they will improve, in response to the citizen. He further referred to recent social protection services advanced for low income and neediest citizen within the economic reform program that included cutting subsidies, increasing pensions and special bonuses for governmental institution workers.
“If we are talking about the measures of protection, this is the maximum that the government can offer for the ability of the government, is this enough? Of course, we wish more than that,” Sisi said.
Over the past few months, the country has witnessed a number of economic measures that was implemented as part of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan that would provide Egypt with $12 billion to help the state in the process of economic reform. These measures have included the floatation of the Egyptian pound in November, leading to major prices’ hike.
“The state would not allow the displacement of citizens, but also it is unacceptable to violate the state authority,” Sisi said in first reference about Warraq Island issue. The president came as clarification for a question asked by one of the resident about their condition in case if the state removed houses on Nile.
The president began his statements saying that amount of L.E.100 billion is needed to return Warraq Island as it was 70-80 years ago, adding that these improvements will include cleaning, repairing for its sewage system, and removing encroachment.
Sisi clarified the issue that the island is about 1,400 acres, which is the largest area in Zamalek area, but it was built randomly, adding that if we used it all for residency, its sewage will impact the Nile, causing kidney diseases and pollution.
He further explained that the encroachment in Warraq and other areas are reasons of the absence of state authority and law enforcement.
Regarding speculation that the state will hand Warraq Island for an Emirati investor, Sisi commented that the problem is not about the funding, but about the management.
In July 16, the clashes erupted between security forces and residents of the Warraq district in Giza during attempts to remove Nile encroachments, resulting in injuries on both sides, and death of one citizen. Also, ten people were arrested.
The attempt came as part of campaign initiated by the president in May to retrieve state property and demolish encroachments in all governorates around Egypt.
Presidential elections of 2018:
Candidates who might run the upcoming elections, elections expected scenarios, will president Sisi run the elections, who will be the competitors, rate of people turnout, these are questions are always raised among the public regarding the presidential elections of 2018 that is scheduled to start within next February to May.
In another question asked to the president during the session if he would run the upcoming elections or not, he said neither confirmed nor dismissed about his stance from the election, but he called on the Egyptian to cast their votes.
In every time the president was asked about possibility of his candidacy in the upcoming election, he never responds whether confirmation or the opposite, but refers that his candidacy will be upon people decision. In his interview with Editor in chiefs of National newspapers in August, Sisi said that he would run the elections if the Egyptian called him to do so.
Speaking about presidential election in the third national Youth conference, Sisi said that “he will not stay in the office, if people reject his presence.” He also stated the same answers in his interview with CNN in September 2016.
Masses back to stands:
Egyptian fans have been banned from attending matches throughout the past years, particularly following the incident of Air Defence Stadium of February 2015, and of Port Said riot in 2012.
Also, clashes between security forces and Ultras fans of both sporting clubs of Al-Ahly and Zamalek, has been common throughout the past years, in which led to ban those affiliated to Ultras groups from entering the clubs.
Sisi commented on this saying that return of fans is related to the security services and the Ministry of Youth and Sports, noting that he cannot make a decision to return the masses until he is sure of restoration of discipline. However, he understands that conditions have improved comparing with the last five years.
To return masses we should make sure that no incidents of violence would occur, Sisi affirmed.
About Ask the President Initiative and its role in the conference:
Citizens were able to deliver their questions for five days, starting from July 18 to 23. A number of 300,000 questions were sent this round from citizens from different governorates across the nation, which was seen as more interaction with the initiative comparing with the third round of the conference that received only 172,000 questions, according to the conference.
Regarding the topics of the questions, 31 percent were about economic reform, 28 percent about terrorism, 21 percent encroachments on state properties, about, 11 percent youth empowerment and 9 percent complaints, according to a chart presented during the session, according to a chart presented at the conference on Monday.
The National Youth Conference is scheduled to kick off every three months as decided previously by the president during its launch in October 2016, when the first conference took place in Sharm El-Sheikh.