Sisi: Expensive water, insufficient housing, a difficult future ahead

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi inaugurated a series of development projects via video conference in several governorates on Saturday, and took the opportunity to address Egyptians on a number of issues, including public services, the judiciary, youth and a challenging future.

Here are some of the main points he made:

How much can Egyptians handle?

“It is very important for Egyptians to understand the challenges that are facing the nation, and the demands of the people, so we can assess if they are able to be met or not,” Sisi said at the beginning of his speech. He promised more support for public services, but also warned of the burden that will fall on citizens to pay for them. 

Water is costly

Sisi explained water subsidies cost LE40 million a day, a burden the state is no longer able to bear. “The state cannot continue this way. It is not that it doesn’t want to, but it simply cannot,” he said. New state-led development and agricultural projects require large amounts of water, the president explained. 

The state statistics agency CAPMAS predicts that by 2025, the annual water quota will dwindle to 582 cubic meters per person. Countries with below 500 cubic meters per person per year are considered to be in a state of absolute water scarcity. Ethiopia is also pushing ahead with plans to build a 6,000 megawatt hydroelectric dam along its stretch of the Nile, despite concerns the mega-project will impact Egypt’s share of Nile water.

Housing is not enough

The government promised to build 100,000 new housing units, and Sisi promised another 100,000, with the allocation of LE1 billion from the Long Live Egypt Fund to finance the initiatives. The fund was created in 2014 by Sisi to assist in a number of planned development initiatives. 

“Even this isn’t enough, however. To keep up with Egypt’s annual population growth, we need to build half a million units annually, which we aren’t doing. We won’t succeed in doing so, unless we truly live up to the challenges,” he said, warning, “If we don’t provide enough housing units, informal housing will increase. We can’t allow this.”

Judicial independence

On Wednesday, the Court of Cassation accepted an appeal of the death sentences issued to 149 people charged with the premeditated murder of 11 police officers and two civilians in Kerdasa in 2013. The court ordered a retrial in the case.

Despite his obvious disappointment at the ruling, Sisi asserted this is evidence of the independence of the judiciary, and addressed the families of those killed, saying he knows their pain. 

“Sons of the police and military, we [appreciate] your martyrs, but you have to know that these are court rulings … Judges rule according to what they have on paper. We don’t criticize or intervene, we have to accept this,” he stated.

‘Don’t get me wrong’

Last week, Sisi invited 10 Ultras Ahlawy, hardcore football fans of the Ahly Club, to take part in a state-led investigation into the deaths of 74 people during a game in Port Said in 2012. However, on Saturday, Sisi said his remarks were misunderstood as an attempt to intervene in the work of the judiciary. 

“People’s [interpretations] of what I said were given too much weight,” he asserted, adding, “We should work together hand in hand, so as not to lose control and be disappointed by our youth.”

Addressing the youth directly, Sisi said, “Problems won’t be solved overnight, we have mounting issues that will take time.”

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