Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Can Egypt's presidential candidates transform economic fortunes?

From Reza Sayah, CNN
May 23, 2014 -- Updated 0359 GMT (1159 HKT)
Supporters of Egyptian leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi (portrait) attend a campaign meeting in Cairo.
Supporters of Egyptian leftist presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi (portrait) attend a campaign meeting in Cairo.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egyptians will go to the polls on May 26 and 27 to elect a new president
  • Adel Fattah el Sisi and Hamdeen Sabahi are the only candidates
  • Reviving a crumblng economy will be among the key tasks of the vote winner

Watch Marketplace Middle East every week on CNN International. Click here for the show times. For full coverage of the Egyptian election in Arabic, visit CNN Arabic.

Cairo, Egypt (CNN) -- Since the 2011 revolution, Egyptians have seen near non-stop protests, the toppling of two presidents, six elections, and a seemingly endless political crisis.

But what they haven't witnessed yet is what has been demanded all along -- a better economy.

As the country goes to the polls next week to elect a new president, both candidates insist this is something they can be trusted to deliver.

Former army chief Abdel Fattah el Sisi pledges new roads, housing, airports, jobs and an end to the energy crisis.

Sisi's lone opponent, left leaning politician Hamdeen Sabahi, has vowed to dish out millions of dollars in investments to help reopen government factories, create new jobs, build new housing and improve health care.

V. Shankar on Modi's key challenges
Tony Blair on radical Islam
Indian expats on elections

These are lofty promises. But has either candidate offered specifics on how they will get things done?

"Not yet," said Cairo based economist, Angus Blair. "We've still got a few weeks before elections but the pressure is growing on both of them to come up with plans and that includes Sisi."

Blair believes that in order to deliver on campaign promises, Egypt's next president must attract investors from both inside and outside Egypt through large scale economic reform.

"It's not going to be easy," he added. "The problems are surmountable but I have to say the structural problems of Egypt's economy are enormous."

These problems include rising food prices, unemployment at roughly 14% and a crippling budget deficit of around 12% of GDP.

On top of all that, passions are still running high over the ousting and trial of former president Mohamed Morsy who was removed from his post by the army in 2013.

A critical step to recovery, many business-minded economists say, is cutting costly food and fuel subsidies that eat up roughly one third of Egypt's budget.

But for the country's poor, cutting subsidies will be an extremely tough pill to swallow.

To ease the impact, Blair says Egypt's next leader must launch projects to help the masses -- like improving transport and affordable housing -- that can be kick-started by billions of aid received from Gulf Arab states.

"If the right policies are in place, Egypt will respond quickly," Blair said.

"But changing sentiment is the key by putting right policies and right people in place to show something is changing."

Only then, he concludes, can Egypt's next president truly improve the economy and meet the demands of millions of Egyptians still waiting for a better life three years after revolution came to the country.

See also: Cairo's nightlife comes back to life

See also: The Middle East's king of hotels

See also: Gas fields could unite Cyprus

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Marketplace Middle East
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A little over 26 years ago, Mohammad Reza Najafi started manufacturing auto parts in Iran.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0916 GMT (1716 HKT)
Lana Del Rey performs at the Byblos International Festival in 2013.
The ancient town of Byblos in Lebanon has attracted some of the world's biggest music stars.
July 25, 2014 -- Updated 0233 GMT (1033 HKT)
French baguettes aren't the traditional bread of choice in the Middle East, but a Saudi firm wants to change that.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1433 GMT (2233 HKT)
Iran has seen a doubling of tourists visiting the country in the last year and hoteliers are rushing to accommodate them.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0241 GMT (1041 HKT)
In a tiny car repair shop in the Jordanian capital of Amman, one can encounter the latest efforts to solve the country's sky high youth unemployment rate.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Youth unemployment is not a new subject to make the headlines (see Spain and Greece) but it is has become a particularly acute problem for Jordan.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0259 GMT (1059 HKT)
Bales of tomatoes grown near Mafraq, Jordan.
The war in Syria has wide ranging affects on people in neighboring countries, including farmers in Jordan.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1213 GMT (2013 HKT)
Cranes rise above the Aqaba Container Terminal in Jordan.
In the port city of Aqaba, southern Jordan, construction works are popping up everywhere.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1733 GMT (0133 HKT)
Can Turkish Airlines continue to soar in the face of competition from Qatar and the UAE?
June 12, 2014 -- Updated 0334 GMT (1134 HKT)
A guide to the Middle East's oil and gas reserves.
May 30, 2014 -- Updated 0248 GMT (1048 HKT)
The Middle East's latest airport destination began full operations earlier this week.
ADVERTISEMENT