Egypt’s cabinet accepted the resignation of Minister of Supply and Internal Trade Khaled Hanafy amid the highest-profile corruption since Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in 2014, said Reuters.
Hanafi’s resignation is the most senior-level fallout from a probe into whether millions of dollars intended to subsidise farmers were used to purchase wheat that did not exist.
Egypt’s supply ministry is the one responsible for a massive food subsidy program and the main state grain buyer, the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC).
In this context, members of parliament who formed a fact-finding commission to investigate the fraud have said “upwards of 2 million tonnes, or 40%of the locally procured crop, may be missing,” reported Reuters.
In June, “the ministry said that the government had purchased up to five million tons of local wheat and paid farmers EGP 14 billion (roughly $1.6 billion) for the harvest season, which started in mid-April,” according to al-Ahram, a state-owned newspaper.
Earlier this month, the Egyptian office of the prosecutor-general stated that its ongoing investigation into alleged corruption surrounding local wheat procurement revealed that some EGP 533 million ($60 million) had been stolen by officials within the agriculture ministry in collusion with silo owners.
The prosecution said that officials took government money assigned to buy 222,000 tons of wheat from local farmers and expropriated the money while claiming that the purchases were made.
As a result, the general prosecutor has ordered arrests, travel bans, and asset freezes for several private silo owners and others allegedly involved in the scandal.
In the last weeks, the parliament’s wheat commission MPs carried out highly publicized site visits to private silos suspected of fraud, arriving unannounced to tally missing wheat before announcing their findings to the local press.
Moreover, Hanafi was also criticized for an array of the ministry’s most critical duties as hacked smart cards for bread distribution, the wasting of millions of dollars in subsidized flour, the ministry’s failure to purchase rice during the last harvest that led to nationwide shortages of subsidized rice and price spikes that hit the country’s wrecked economy.
In the same context, government sources revealed that a limited cabinet reshuffle is expected to take place next week, which will include the ministers of health, education, transportation, and investment.
This will be the sixth cabinet reshuffle since al-Sisi came to power. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who led the military coup in 2013 against the first democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi, has failed until now in solving Egypt’s crucial crises.
However, Egypt’s economic crisis has intensified during al-Sisi’s reign with the shortage in hard currency due to the decline of tourism and foreign investments (Egypt’s two major sources of foreign currency), the devaluation of the Egyptian currency, the rise of US dollar prices in exchange for the Egyptian currency, and inflation, as well as various cabinet reshuffles that is an explicit evidence of al-Sisi shaky administration.
It has also been proved through his two years in power that al-Sisi isn’t Egypt’s savior but on the contrary “al-Sisi is making things worse”, said the Economist in its editorial, “The Ruining of Egypt”
The magazine said at the end of its editorial that the demographic, economic and social pressures in Egypt are relentlessly increasing and that al-Sisi is incapable of providing the sustainable stability to Egypt, the political regime also needs to be reopened.
The magazine considered al-Sisi’s withdrawal from the political life is the hope gate for the Egypt. The Economist continued saying, “Egypt’s political system needs to be reopened. A good place to start would be for al-Sisi to announce that he will not stand again for election in 2018.”
Moreover, a recent field study for the Egyptian Center for Media and Public Opinion Takamol Masr found that 74% of the Egyptians refuse the continuation of the al-Sisi regime while 11% only wanted the regime to continue and 15% don’t care about what is happening on the Egyptian scene.
The rejection of the al-Sisi regime is high within the age categories that are less than 40 reaching 81%, and it is relatively close for both males and females, according to the “Takamol Masr” study.
But despite all the failures, setbacks, criticism, and corruption, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said that he may run for a second term in office during an interview with the editors-in-chief of the state-run Egyptian newspapers, Al-Ahram, Al-Gomhuria, and Akhbar Al-Youm.