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On a stronger footing
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 30 - 05 - 2019

While Egyptian Muslims were about to celebrate the first day of Eid Al-Fitr, the feast following the holy fasting month of Ramadan, terrorists in Sinai launched yet another cowardly attack against a police checkpoint on 5 June, killing an officer and seven soldiers. Egyptians mourned the young martyrs who bravely fought against the terrorists, killing five on the spot; however, the attack did not shake their confidence that the country is on the right track in terms of winning the war against terrorism and reforming the economy.
Only a few weeks before the latest terrorist Sinai attack, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi inaugurated four tunnels in Ismailia and Port Said, and a number of floating bridges, which will ease crossing to and from Sinai. This ambitious project is confirmation of the state's intent to develop that dear part of the country, linking it to the mainland. It also reflects the conviction that development and fighting terrorist groups, who pose a serious threat to the region and the world, must go hand-in-hand. Hardly a few hours after the attack against the police checkpoint took place, security forces managed to spot the hideout of the criminals, and killed 14 terrorists. Another 12 terrorists were located in the following two days and shot dead in exchanges of fire with police.
Meanwhile, there is no question that Comprehensive Operation Sinai that the Egyptian Armed Forces launched against terrorist groups more than a year ago led to a sizable decline in terrorist activities and in the number of attacks. The year 2018 witnessed the lowest number of attacks over the past five years. Only eight attacks took place in 2018, compared to 50 in 2017, 199 in 2016 and 222 in 2014.
This is proof that the military operation has been achieving its goals, and has managed to significantly diminish the capabilities of terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State in Sinai, which claimed responsibility for the 5 June attack. While those aiming to harm Egypt's interests thrive whenever a terrorist attack takes place, Egypt's army and police force remain confident that they are on the right track, supported by Egyptians who recognise that the battle against terrorist will not come to an end overnight.
Protecting the lives and properties of Sinai residents is a prime concern for security forces while fighting against terrorist groups, and that's why Egyptians understand that this battle needs time and sacrifices. Nothing is more precious than the lives of Egyptians residing in Sinai, along with the brave army and police officers and soldiers who are standing on the line of fire.
While fighting terrorism will certainly remain an uphill battle, so is the sincere effort exerted over the past five years to reform the economy, with the main aim of alleviating poverty, creating jobs for the country's youth and providing better living conditions for Egyptians.
Egypt's economy grew by 2.1 per cent during 2011-2013, a rate that fell short of the population growth rate. In 2018-19, Egypt's growth rate reached 5.6 per cent, according to the latest Ministry of Planning figures as well as updated International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates. This makes Egypt one of the strongest and highest growth performers in the region and across emerging countries. Such solid growth performance was cited by all rating agencies like Moody's and Standard & Poor's as well as international institutions such as the World Bank, African Development Bank and the IMF.
According to Egypt's official statistical body CAPMAS, unemployment averaged 12.7 per cent in 2011-2013 before declining steadily over the past four years to reach a low of 8.1 per cent in March 2019. Creating more jobs for the youth and the Egyptian people stands as the most important benchmark of whether the current growth strategy is benefiting wider segments of the population or not.
Central Bank of Egypt figures show that net foreign currency reserves stand today at $44 billion (allowing Egypt to have a buffer that can finance Egypt's imports bill for more than 8.5 months) versus $14.9 billion in June 2013. This occurred as Egypt's current account deficit (the sum of Egypt's trade balance of goods and services plus money transferred back home by Egyptians living abroad) declined from a peak of almost five per cent of GDP in 2012/2013 to almost 2.5 per cent of GDP in 2018/2019.
To conclude, Egypt's economic performance and fundamentals have been significantly improving due to adopted reforms and polices, making the economy stand on a stronger footing relative to where it was in 2013. This economic turnaround story is one to which all Egyptians contributed, and so all Egyptians should get credit for it.


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