Al-Seesi Says Egypt to Protect Poor in Overhaul of Subsidies

Egypt’s government must ensure that the country’s poorer people aren’t hurt by an overhaul of the subsidies that are weighing on the budget, said Abdel-Fattah al-Seesi, the former army chief who’s the top contender in presidential elections.

The rich benefit most from subsidies, al-Seesi said in an interview with Sky News Arabia late yesterday. He said he didn’t expect wealthier Egyptians to object to changes in the system, “especially if they know that this country won’t stand on its feet.”

Subsidies, especially on energy, have helped to swell Egypt’s budget deficit. The gap widened to almost 14 percent of economic output in the fiscal year that ended in June, and the government predicts about 12 percent in the current one.

Egypt’s economy has been growing at its slowest pace in two decades since 2011, when a popular uprising led to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. Political tensions have persisted since then, deterring investors and tourists, and violence has escalated since al-Seesi toppled President Mohamed Mursi in July last year after mass protests against the Islamist leader.

The former army chief is now one of two candidates contesting presidential elections that start on May 26, and is widely expected to win.

Al-Seesi said Egyptians would feel improvements to the country within two years. He said he’d be ready to meet the people’s demands if they took to the streets against him.

He also said that decisions by Egypt’s judiciary should not be the subject of discussion. Hundreds of supporters of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to death in recent weeks.

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