Making the Egyptian state budget more transparent and reflecting the government’s spending priorities is one of the main issues to be discussed by the subcommittee on public debt, budget deficit and financial reform affiliated to the Dialogue’s economic committee. national.
“We will endeavor to discuss it with the parties concerned in order to conclude a fair and transparent budget process,” said Talaat Khalil, secretary general of the Egyptian Conservative Party and head of the subcommittee.
He said the committee is concerned about correcting imbalances in the state budget, which could lead to increased spending. One way forward could be to integrate some ministries with others, such as education with higher education and planning with international cooperation, in order to achieve efficiency gains.
The state budget reflects the expenditures and revenues of 655 entities, whose expenditures need to be streamlined, Khalil said.
Another issue that should be discussed is the country’s debt, he said, adding that Egypt’s national debt stands at LE 5 trillion and there is a gap of LE 1.5 trillion. LE between expenses and income, usually covered by debt.
Khalil said sources other than new borrowing should be found to fill this gap.
The committee will also review the revenue side of the budget, he said, pointing out that tax revenue is expected to reach LE 1.6 trillion in the new budget. At the same time, the government owes LE 465 billion in back taxes which should be collected.
Khalil said it was important to raise public sector wages in the new budget, currently set at LE 400 billion. The sum was not enough and it was imperative to raise wages to ease the burden resulting from rising inflation, he added.
Although social protection expenditure is planned at LE 336 billion in the new budget, it should be increased to cover the most needy families. “The committee must make recommendations that meet the aspirations of the population. We want to ease people’s burdens, especially in the midst of the currently skyrocketing prices,” Khalil said.
Amr Al-Monayer, a former deputy finance minister in charge of fiscal policies, said the national dialogue was neither a goal nor a panacea, but rather a means of political communication. It is an ongoing process that should be organized as a form of democratic practice, he said.
“In democratic systems, there are widely recognized principles for the success of a national dialogue, the most important of which are careful preparation, inclusiveness, transparency and public participation,” Al-Monayer said.
“There should be a long-term program, clear rules of procedure and an appropriate and effective implementation plan.”
Al-Monayer, who is not a member of the dialogue’s sub-committees, added that the national dialogue must reach consensus on adopting a strategy to rationalize expenditure and increase revenue to reduce the deficit. budget and achieve a stable financial and economic environment and a sustainable economy. growth.
This would include establishing clear and specific short-term and long-term tax policies, simplifying the tax system and eliminating complications in laws and procedures, he explained.
There should be a vision to lift economic growth over the next 10 years to 8% from 3.3% in 2021, and increase investment rates to 25-30%, he said.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who called for the convening of the national dialogue, said its recommendations should be applicable on the ground, Khalil said.
He added that the assignment of opposition figures to head the dialogue committees was a positive reflection of the seriousness of the event and the concern to listen to points of view from all political and economic backgrounds.
*A version of this article appeared in the September 22, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.