A meeting of the People’s Assembly economic committee saw a fierce debate on Tuesday over government development plans.
Minister of Economic Development Othman Mohamed Othman was involved in several parliamentary scuffles, including one with former Prime Minister Ali Lotfy, who slammed government plans for social and economic development for fiscal year 2010/11.
Othman began his session at the committee by praising the government’s success in weathering the global financial crisis. He went on to express surprise that "a major monitoring agency" had issued reports critical of the government at a time when the latter had achieved economic growth rates of more than seven percent. His statement was an apparent reference to a recent report by the Central Auditing Organization that criticized the government for rising inflation and increasing poverty, among other things.
Othman stated that the primary objective of the 2010/11 plan was to keep growth rates rising, to increase GDP per capita from LE15,400 to LE17,400 and to raise wages for public employees by ten percent.
Another target, said Othman, was to raise national level wages by 14 percent, from a current LE447 billion to LE510 billion. The scheme also aims to reduce the poverty rate from 20 percent (in 2008/09) to 18 percent (in 2010/11) and lower unemployment to 9.1 percent.
Lotfy rebuked the government for ignoring the cooperative sector, stressing that all states which have transitioned into free-market economies have supported cooperative enterprises.
He also criticized the rising cost of government-created jobs, which he says have reached up to LE250,000 per job, and called on the government to disclose its plan for national income distribution so the public can assess the state’s efforts in achieving income equality.
Lotfy also warned the government against relying on the private sector to generate LE165 billion in investments, as stipulated by the new plan.
Othman responded to Lotfy’s argument saying that his claims are better suited for seminars than practical application. Othman conceded that he is not the only decision maker on these issues, and cited the shortage in resources essential for fulfilling all the required changes.
"Economic crises are as inevitable as the influenza during winter," Othman said.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.