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EGYPT: Fiscal watchdog blames government for rising poverty

March 23, 2010 | 10:29 am

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During two parliamentary sessions on Saturday and Monday, the head of Egypt's Central Auditing Agency warned of growing public anger and blamed Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif's government for a rise in the poverty rate from 20% to 23.4% over the last two years. 

CAA chief Gawdat El Malt was drawn into arguments over his annual report with Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali and Ahmed Ezz, chairman of the People's Assembly. El Malt, the country's fiscal watchdog, also criticized the government for high inflation, which rose from 5% in 2005 to 16.2% in 2009. Egypt is ranked 82nd among the poorest 135 countries in the world.

"Most citizens are unable to support such staggering price rises," El Malt said, accusing the finance minister of policies that spur citizens to take to the streets in protest. He said the government has "lost the confidence of people because it doesn’t care about poor Egyptians. ... You have to contain the anger of these classes because they constitute the majority of Egyptians."  

Boutros-Ghali and Ezz disputed El Malt's assessment, questioning the credibility and sources behind the CAA report. "It has become and annual tradition. El Malt has become fond of launching attacks on the government and its ministers just to be the focus of newspaper headlines and television screens," said Boutros-Ghali. "Where did the head of CAA come out with what he said?"

El Malt, whose statement contained 25 criticisms of the government and 21 positive points, said his figures were substantiated by reports from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Arab Monetary Fund and the United Nations Human Development Report.

However, Ezz, who is also member of the ruling National Democratic Party's policies committee, said that El Malt's job is to exercise fiscal supervision, not to review the economic priorities of the government. 

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo

Photo: Egyptian Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali. Credit: Reuters

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