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Foreign Ministry slams Economist magazine for article criticizing Sisi’s policies

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry hit back at The Economist magazine for an article it published asserting, “Repression and the incompetence of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are stoking the next uprising.”

The article in question, titled After the Arab Spring: The Ruining of Egypt, claimed, “Nowhere is the poisonous mix of demographic stress, political repression and economic incompetence more worrying than in Egypt under its strongman.”

The Ministry’s responseThe Ruining of The Economist, which has been attributed to spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid, criticizes the magazine for using “pejorative terms and descriptions” that are slanderous and seek to disregard Sisi’s accomplishments.

“A general who seized power in a coup in 2013, Mr. Sisi, has proved more repressive than Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled in the Arab spring; and he is as incompetent as Muhammad Morsi, the elected Islamist president, whom Mr. Sisi deposed,” The Economist asserted, claiming Sisi came to power through a coup that disregarded the will of the Egyptian people.

It also accused Sisi of economic “incompetence,” placing the blame for the state of the nation firmly at the president’s feet and not the result of policies made by a wider state apparatus.

“Even with billions of petrodollars … Egypt’s budget and current-account deficits are gaping … For all of Mr. Sisi’s nationalist posturing, he has gone beret in hand to the IMF for a $12 billion bail-out,” the article reads.

With youth unemployment at over 40 percent, The Economist describes a bureaucracy that is “bloated with do-nothing civil servants,” claiming, “Sisi is making things worse. He insists on defending the Egyptian pound, to avoid stoking inflation and bread riots. He thinks he can control the cost of food, much of which is imported, by propping up the currency. But capital controls have failed to prevent the emergence of a black market for dollars.”

Although Abu Zeid said Egypt welcomes “constructive and informed criticism,” he slammed The Economist for only making “superficial references” to Egypt’s current economic policies, and jumping to “a hurried conclusion of incompetence.”

“Labor-intensive mega projects have been launched to leverage the fundamentals of the Egyptian economy and set a solid foundation for economic growth,” Abu Zeid argued in response to The Economist’s assertion Sisi “pours taxpayers’ cash into grandiose projects,” such as the Suez Canal extension, “plans for a new Dubai-like city in the desert [that] lie buried in the sand, and a bridge connecting Egypt to Saudi Arabia.

“Even Mr Sisi’s Arab bank-rollers appear to be losing patience. Advisers from the United Arab Emirates have gone home, frustrated by an ossified bureaucracy and a knucklehead leadership,” according to the magazine’s heavily critical article.

In response, Abu Zeid stressed, “President Sisi does not micro-manage Egypt’s institutions and does not create economic policy in a vacuum; he is surrounded by institutions and consultants, an independent Central Bank and a cabinet of professionals that are in charge of decision-making … The government remains accountable to Parliament and to Egypt’s people,” who he claimed should be the ones to determine what constitutes economic “incompetence.”

“Creating a new economic model is never easy and takes time,” the Ministry’s spokesperson added, arguing the nation has experienced “unprecedented regional turmoil, international economic and trade drawbacks, and recent incidents that have taken a heavy toll on tourism and investment.”

Although heavily critical of Sisi and his Cabinet, The Economist does concede Egypt has inherited a “legacy of Arab socialism” and “economic woes [that] stem partly from factors beyond the government’s control,” such as low oil prices, wars and terrorism.

The Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson concluded by stressing Egyptians do not need to be patronized for their choices: “As Egypt struggles with these difficulties, it is quite clear who our friends are, and whose support we can count on. It is obvious that The Economist has chosen to take sides with those bent on undermining Egypt.”