CAIRO – Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Tuesday he will donate half of his personal wealth and half of his salary to help the country's crippling economy, the improvement of which he said requires sacrifices from all Egyptians.
El-Sissi also said he asked the government to amend a newly drafted budget — the largest in Egypt's history at $115 billion — because it had a deficit he said was unacceptable. The draft budget kept Egypt's budget deficit hovering around 12 percent.
The budget had large sums dedicated to state subsidies on food and energy, as well as spending on pensions and social spending. El-Sissi said he asked his government to amend it, but didn't specify what will be changed.
He said tough measures will have to be taken to address the deficit and other economic challenges. Tourism revenues, a main foreign cash earner, have fallen drastically because of Egypt's political unrest.
"I found the deficit increasing, bringing our debts up to ($282 billion) only because this is the budget that won't stir public opinion," he said. "I couldn't approve it ... How long can we continue to avoid confronting our challenges and problems?"
El-Sissi said Gulf aid to Egypt in the past months, estimated around $20 billion, won't last.
"I am telling you, there must be real sacrifices from every Egyptian," he said.
To set an example, el-Sissi said he will donate half of his personal wealth and half of his salary to the country. The monthly salary for the president is set at $6,000.
"This is too much for me. I am telling you I will do two things. I will only take half of this salary," he said. "There is something else I can do. I will give up half of what I own, included what I inherited from my father, for the sake of the country."
He appealed to wealthy Egyptians to do same, saying a bank account he would oversee would go to help Egypt's myriads of problems.
The size of El-Sissi's personal wealth was subject to speculation around the time of his nomination for elections when he was required to divulge it to the election commission confidentially.
A local newspaper published a report estimating his wealth at $4.2 million, including inheritance from his father. But the paper later retracted amid reports of criticism from the military for publishing it. El-Sissi's family is one of the best known makers of oriental-type furniture in Cairo's old district.
El-Sissi also said he will not accept or be able to meet demands from different sectors for wage increases and better working conditions.
Protests by workers and government officials were a main feature during the last three years in Egypt, as they joined in with the spirit of revolt against government policies and corrupt practices.