Towards a politics of consensus

October 15th, 2012

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil has met with representatives from across the political spectrum in an attempt to forge agreement on economic policy and other pressing issues – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Reem Leila, 11 – 17 October 2012.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil held two meetings with representatives from a wide array of political forces to discuss the economic crisis facing the government. The meetings focussed on ways to contain the crisis, with issues such as an LE1,200 minimum wage, ways to tackle corruption and strategies to recover funds stolen by members of the Mubarak regime all being discussed. 

Poverty alleviation, battling unemployment and developing strategies capable of delivering greater social justice were also high on the agenda, as were reducing the current budget deficit of LE135 billion and improving health and education services.

According to Kandil, the government is seeking public support for its economic reform plans via an extensive national dialogue. “The results of national dialogue meetings already held will be presented to President Mohamed Morsi next week for further study by the presidential team,” said Kandil.

Among the attendees at the meetings were Egypt’s former prime ministers Ali Lotfi and Abdel-Aziz Hegazi, former secretary-general of Arab League Amr Moussa, former deputy prime minister Hazem Al-Beblawi, and former MP Amr Hamzawy. They were joined by politicians, members of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), teachers’ representatives, economists and businessmen … //

… Participants also discussed ways to tackle illiteracy, which currently stands at 40.6 per cent among females.

Teachers Syndicate head Ahmed Al-Halawani praised Kandil for canvassing opinions about what needs to be done to tackle chronic problems. He pointed out that education — and elementary education in particular, is the cornerstone of development. “Yet at least 35 per cent of children do not complete elementary education,” he says. The problem, he added, is compounded by a lack of proper school facilities and well-trained teachers.”

Poor leadership, corruption, vastly unequal distribution of financial resources and lack of trust in government are among the challenges facing Egypt.

The prime minister’s meetings, says political analyst Hamzawy, were an attempt to garner opinions over the kinds of radical action needed to combat endemic problems.

“Further discussions are to take place within the coming weeks,” said Hamzawy, and they should include as wide a range of participants as possible.

“The mechanisms of national dialogue must be widened and all the opinions and suggestions presented thoroughly studied.”

Professor of political science Hassan Nafaa believes such dialogue initiatives are essential in solving the country’s problems, though “in order to be effective they must be conducted regularly”.

“What really matters is the participation of different political powers in these meetings,” says Nafaa. The participants must be credible representatives of the public for only then will citizens feel they are playing a role in contributing to solving the problems they face in their daily lives.
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