Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday he would not shy from tough economic reforms he said previous rulers had avoided fearing unrest.
Sisi’s comments come after an initial agreement with the International Monetary Fund for $12 billion in financing that hinges on a reform package slashing state spending and the devaluation of the Egyptian pound.
Parliament is also expected to pass a law introducing a value added tax to raise state revenues.
“The first attempt at real reform was in 1977,” Sisi said in a speech aired by state television during the launch of an ethynyl plant in the coastal city of Alexandria.
The country had been rocked by riots that year after president Anwar Sadat said he would end basic subsidies as demanded by the World Bank in return for a loan.
“The people’s reaction caused the state to backtrack, and it has continued to delay (the reforms) till now,” said Sisi.
“All the hard decisions that many over the years were scared to take: I will not hesitate for a second to take them,” he said.
Sisi took aim at the country’s bloated bureaucracy, saying the state had hired hundreds of thousands of people who were not needed.
“When I appoint 900,000 people in the public sector because of pressure for jobs, at a time when I really don’t need anything from them… what effect will this have?”
Paying their salaries, Sisi added, had increased state debts.
“We borrow and we borrow and we borrow, and the more we borrow the more the debt grows,” he said.