Egypt’s Sisi makes surprise visit to Saudi Arabia
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia and met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday.
The trip comes as Egypt continues to struggle to manage rising inflation, a deepening debt crisis and the chronic devaluation of its currency at home.
Other prominent Saudi and Egyptian officials attended the meeting between the two leaders, including Saudi National Security Adviser Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban and Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.
Egypt’s economy has been supported by a steady infusion of Saudi cash for the past decade, but the kingdom has increasingly signaled that it is no longer interested in providing unconditional aid.
Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, warned that his country would no longer lend aid to others without reforms.
“We used to give grants and direct deposits with no strings attached,” Jadaan said. “And we’re changing that. We’re working with multilateral institutions to say, ‘We need to see reforms.'”
In February, leading Saudi academics issued a rare criticism of Sisi’s policies and the Egyptian military’s role in the economy, prompting an outcry from the president’s supporters.
Although Sisi has insisted that his government is the best known and that the crisis is a normal result of global factors affecting the rest of the world, some public figures in the Gulf expressed doubts about his economic model.
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Khalid al-Dakhil, an academic and former columnist at the Saudi newspaper Al-Hayat, write recently that the roots of the current economic crisis in Egypt are in the military corruption of 1952 and that “Egypt has not left the grind of the army since 1952”.
He added that “the military’s control over Egypt’s politics and economy did not allow for a political-economic alternative”.
The comments caused a split between the countries, prompting angry reactions from Sisi’s supporters who accused Saudi analysts of double standards, and failure to fairly criticize their own government.
In a lengthy column published by pro-government website Cairo24, a pro-Sisi columnist appeared to be responding to the Arabic writers, attacking them for “insulting their masters”.
“Those who were barefooted and naked, who only recently began to wear the most magnificent garments, should not insult Egypt, the pride and mother of the world,” he wrote in disparaging language commonly used in the Arab world. to describe the inhabitants of the Arab World. A gulf that derives its wealth from recent oil discoveries.
Along with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, Riyadh helped keep Sisi’s economy afloat, with billions of dollars in deposits and aid in the two years after its military coup in 2013. Egypt received an estimated $92bn from Gulf countries. since 2011.
The Gulf states later switched to investments and acquisitions of profitable Egyptian state-owned assets rather than deposits in the Central Bank, as Cairo struggled to repay its debts and finance its import-dependent economy, starting instead that of very large expenditure on new mega-projects with doubt. economic value.