Mubarak claims 8% annual growth over next five years

 

EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT Hosni Mubarak announced on Saturday that he expected the country’s growth rate to rise to 8 per cent over the next five years.

Mr Mubarak, who has ruled since 1981, elaborated on his economic programme at the annual convention of the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which won nearly 90 per cent of parliamentary seats in November’s vote.

The opposition Muslim Brotherhood, the liberal Wafd and local and international human rights organisations complained that the results were tainted by vote buying, rigging and fraud in a poll in which at most 10 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots.

Mr Mubarak – who has not said whether he will be a candidate in next autumn’s presidential poll – dismissed these charges. “We at the National Party rise above monopolising national and political work,” he said, adding that he hoped his economic plan would alleviate the situation of the 40 per cent of Egyptians who live below the poverty level of $2 a day.

Although Egypt has enjoyed a high growth rate – 5-6 per cent – following the onset of the global economic crisis, growth has occur- red in sectors benefiting the rich, prompting popular protests last summer against low wages and the rising costs of essentials.

The president also told the NDP congress he would personally supervise policies on combating corruption and devolving power to local authorities. He urged party bosses to connect with the people.

“Tell those who don’t receive the fruits of growth and development that they are on their way. Spread hope.”

Mr Mubarak (82), who underwent serious surgery last year, is expected to be the NDP candidate for president and to serve until he is no longer capable, or for the rest of his life. His son, Gamal, groomed for the post, has the backing of neither the army nor the people, who reject a republican dynasty.