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Egypt's parliamentary speaker blasted for spending $425,800 on cars

Egyptian people wait in line for clean water [Badaweee/Wikipedia]
Egyptians wait in line for clean water, 2 February 2017 [Badaweee/Wikipedia]

Egyptian social media is in uproar following reports that the country's parliamentary speaker and two deputies have been using state funds to buy cars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, as ordinary Egyptians struggle through an economic freefall brought about by government mismanagement.

Speaker Ali Abdel-Al's government-backed embezzlement comes as ordinary Egyptians are being constantly reminded to live on less by President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, with budget cuts stretching across the economic climate to contest the worst economic crisis in decades.

Al-Sisi added to the dire observation of Egypt's economy by stating last week how Egypt is "poor, very, very poor". News of the mismanagement and abuse of the state budget has angered Egyptians forced to accept economic reforms and austerity measures adding to the struggles most Egyptians face daily.

Lawmaker Mohammed Anwar Al-Sadat was reportedly referred to a disciplinary committee after publicly questioning the purchases of the Speaker and his deputies.

A parliament statement later defended Abdel-Al's purchase, stating that the cars were expensive due to them needing to be armoured because of security concerns.

The car purchase cost $425,800 in total, with a total of around $600,000 set aside for his two deputies. Despite this, the statement added that those charged with looking after the parliamentary budget were still "concerned over the economy when it comes to spending."

Defending the legality of the purchase, the statement further explained that the government approved an additional funding of $1.15 million for parliament between December 2015 and February 2016 in order to facilitate the car purchases.

One columnist, Hamdy Rizk, blasted the statement as an embarrassment and said that those "who want others to tighten the belt" must also "tighten their own belts first."

Meanwhile, and in the latest blow for Egyptians depending on state subsidised food items, the prices of sugar and cooking oil were increased yesterday for ration card holders.

Nearly a third of the population live under the UN poverty line of $1.90 a day, with the recent reforms hiking core inflation to about 26 per cent last year.

The floatation of the Egyptian pound, losing half of its value against the dollar, has also caused hikes in prices for imported goods along with tuition fees at international schools.

"If we assume that we are a very poor country like you said, Mr President, then why is [the] parliament speaker…buying cars worth 18 million [Egyptian] pounds from the funds of this very poor country?" columnist Mai Azzam Sisi questioned Al-Sisi over his economic message last week in Al-Masry al-Youm's online edition.

"Which Egypt are you talking about Mr. President? Our Egypt that's becoming poorer, or your Egypt that is growing more extravagant?"

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