Amr Mohamed Moussa is an Egyptian politician and diplomat who served as Secretary-General of the Arab League from 2001 until 2011. Prior to that, he served ten years as Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs. He is viewed as a top contender for the presidency in Egyptian elections later this month; his prior experience under Hosni Mubarak is seen as both a strength and a political liability. (You can listen to the full podcast in Arabic here.)
Elshinnawi: If you are elected president, what priorities will you set for your first 100 days in office?
The first priority will be to restore security and thus end the fear facing Egyptian families today. To do that, we will need to invite the police force back and rehabilitate police stations so that the force could resume its role with a clear mandate from the president to serve the population, not to suppress or oppress it. All police officers who have either quit or are staying home would be recalled back into service.
The second priority would be to resume services to citizens and provide relief from shortages of fuel and natural gas. Then, I would set up presidential workshops to discuss with experts major issues such as education, healthcare, housing, agriculture, industry, services, et cetera, and call on them to produce lists of recommendations for tacking all of these issues.
Over the next 100 days, once these recommendations are turned into plans and resolutions, I would establish councils to plan and execute these recommendations – including a national security council, a socio-economic council, a council for arts and cultural affairs and a special council to address people with special needs.
Elshinnawi: Social justice is a major goal of the Egyptian revolution, but it requires huge resources to achieve. How would you deal with that challenge?
Social justice is a must at this stage, especially because at least 50 percent of the population is living at or around the poverty line. I would double the tax relief limit to help these people. At the same time, I would introduce progressive taxation to ensure justice in handling tax burdens. As for unemployment, I will offer unemployment compensation of 50 percent of the set minimum income, provided that the unemployed go through a rehabilitation process to acquire needed skills in the labor market.
On top of all that, I have a plan for grand projects, such as developing the Suez Canal area by transforming it into an integrated industrial, agricultural, commercial, maritime and free trade zone project. That way, it would become a magnet for investments. I have similar development plans for Sinai, west of the Nile, and the northwest coast to restore huge wheat production after clearing the mines fields in that area, which is underway right now.
Egyptian, Arab, and foreign investments would flow because all of these projects are concrete, feasible and viable. I would also initiate a national program for small- and medium-sized industries and provide small loans to encourage entrepreneurs. Also, I would establish a new bank to finance agricultural production and reconsider the prices of crops to help farmers.
Elshinnawi: Would you maintain the army's economy as it has been running so far, that is, apart from the general budget?
That issue should not concern people, because the ruling power will be transferred from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to the elected president. Then, the armed forces, whether their leadership or the rank and file, would take care of their own affairs. I would caution that we should deal with these issues wisely, as we are creating a new democratic state with a National Security Council that would discuss such details.
Elshinnawi: What role do you envision for Egyptian expatriates in rebuilding Egypt?
We have to deal with expatriates as Egyptian communities that are actually living abroad with a second, and sometimes a third, generation – in the U.S., Australia, Canada, Europe, and even in Africa.
On our side, the state should take care of their cultural and religious needs and open up investment opportunities to the expatriates. By doing so, we create a permanent common interest. I intend to establish a special ministry for Egyptian expatriates to coordinate their affairs with other ministries, such as education, culture, and the foreign ministry to take on a brand new approach to our expatriates around the world.
Elshinnawi: How can you restore the regional role and prestige to Egypt after 30 years of retreat?
The retreat happened especially in the past ten years. Egypt itself has contributed in that retreat by closing its doors and avoiding getting engaged in any troubles. That was a wrong policy. In order to restore its foreign role Egypt has to reform its domestic role as well. When others, such as Arabs, Africans and Europeans, feel that the ruling regime in Egypt is serious about rebuilding Egypt, then Egypt will restore its foreign strength.
Elshinnawi: Some presidential candidates have pledged to reconsider the Camp David accords or renegotiate some of their articles. What are your thoughts?
Anyone who commits himself to reconsidering Camp David Accords does not understand the facts. There is nothing to renegotiate because, as a document, it fulfilled its role and it is no longer controlling either relations or the Middle East peace process. Quite the opposite, it has been replaced by the Arab League peace initiative and other bilateral agreements. The only portion of that treaty that I would want to reconsider is some of the security appendixes which, in fact, ties Egypt’s hands when it comes to securing the Sinai Peninsula.
Elshinnawi: U.S.-Egyptian relations are considered important to both countries. During Mubarak’s era, their relationship entailed strategic cooperation. How do you see Egypt’s future relationship with the U.S.?
Our U.S.-Egyptian relations will not be about strategic cooperation, but rather about bilateral cooperation, with consultations over regional issues. It is in our national interest that our relationship with the U.S. be good and positive. It is in our national interest not to fall into a superficial trap and judge our relations on negative populist feelings because of the U.S. position toward the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That should not be everything.
I call for a solid relationship with the U.S. that would allow us to ask for modifications of the U.S. stance and reformulation of its positions in a way that could help achieve a just peace in the Middle East.
Check Mohamed Elshinnawi's interview with another presidential hopeful, Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh.