Egypt PM’s speech on floods and the economy provokes roars in Parliament

Following the deaths of dozens of people in recent floods amid a worsening economic crisis, Egypt’s prime minister delivered a speech before Parliament that was met with laughter and critique.

Last week, the Red Sea city of Ras Ghareb was one of many hit by a wave of floods that took the lives of 22 people, injuring more than 70 others and destroying land and property.

Criticized for lack of preparation, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail defended the government, maintaining that such crises are a rare occurrence for Egypt and that precautions were taken in other governorates to avoid damage.

“The government understands the hard economic situation faced by all of us,” Ismail said, adding that stability is currently the most important priority. He went on to compare Egypt to other Arab nations, such as Syria and Yemen, provoking jeers from Members of Parliament.

The house had previously threatened to impose a vote of no confidence in Ismail’s government, after he didn’t show up for a previous session to discuss the floods and economic crisis.

The head of the Federation of Egyptian Industries, MP Mohamed al-Sewedy, was highly critical of the government’s economic performance, as industries continue to suffer from the foreign exchange crisis and the Egyptian pound hit historic lows on the black market this week.

The country has been struggling with a widening gap between the official and unofficial exchange rates, as banks don’t have enough liquidity to meet market demands.

“The government is coordinating with the Central Bank to unify the exchange rate at the appropriate time,” Ismail was quoted as saying in media reports.

Egypt is seeking a US$12 billion IMF loan, for which several economic reforms are required. Ismail said a progressive income tax was being considered, in response to demands by some Members of Parliament.

Also on the government’s economic agenda is a LE6 billion renewable subsidy for industries, along with new investment and bankruptcy laws, the country’s premier added.

In the face of a shortage of basic commodities, such as sugar, Ismail said the government had distributed 250,000 tons of sugar in October, adding that there are enough sugar stocks to last three months.

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