Mubarak talks of reform

Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, has outlined his government's programme for economic reform and cutting unemployment in a speech devoid of detail and dismissed by some observers as more empty sloganising.

    Mubarak is unlikely to impress the Brotherhood bloc

    Mubarak, speaking at the inauguration of the 23rd session of parliament, said: "I am committed to working with the parliament to continue constitutional and democratic reforms."

    He gave no details of which aspects of the constitution would be up for amendment.

    "Hand in hand with democratic reform is economic reform and we have embarked on ambitious programmes to increase Egypt's economic prospects," Mubarak said.

    He said his cabinet would propose a programme to improve the availability and efficacy of basic services and increase employment opportunities for youth who enter the labour force every year.

    Failed economic plans

    Mubarak also said his government would put forward a plan to reduce unemployment steadily. Again, he gave no details.

    Mohamed el Sayed Idriss, of the Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies, told that neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor any of the opposition groups will react positively to Mubarak's programme.

    He said: "If we look back on the 24 years he has been in power, we see that it was the policies of his government that led to unemployment, corruption, and failed economic plans ... and they can't be resolved overnight or with slogans. He isn't a magician."

    Idriss believes that Egypt's spiralling budget deficit will constrain funds necessary to kick-start anti-unemployment drives or create sustainable new jobs.

    Electoral fraud

    Mubarak's National Democratic Party (NDP) touted the speech as the "first by a nationally and democratically elected president".

    The speech is the president's first national address since his re-election in September and since bitterly contested parliamentary elections ended two weeks ago.

    The month-long, multi-stage parliamentary elections were marred by violence and alleged electoral fraud, to which Mubarak alluded in his address.

    "We must admit and learn from some of the negative aspects exhibited by the elections - they did not stop us from our journey on the path to democratic reforms," he said.

    In session until 2010, the parliament consists of the largest bloc of Muslim Brotherhood MPs to date - 88 seats, or roughly 20% of the 444 up for grabs - 333 NDP MPs, 21 opposition seats, and 12 that have yet to be decided pending fraud investigations.

    Last week, Mubarak appointed the customary additional 10 seats.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera



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