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Florence Dixon

Egyptians criticise Sisi for prioritising construction of new capital city over coronavirus response

Construction continues at Egypt's New Administrative Capital [Getty]

Date of publication: 4 June, 2020

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Egyptians have taken to Twitter to mock the president's lavish spending plans for a new administrative capital city, while the regime's response to the Covid-19 crisis remains 'shaky'.
Egyptians have taken to social media in a rare show of criticism of the country's leader, President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, accusing him of putting the construction of the new administrative capital city above healthcare funding. 

The building of the new capital, in a desert area outside Cairo, is proceeding at pace, while doctors complain that the resources at their disposal to fight a coronavirus outbreak remains woefully insufficient.

"Sisi is ordering work on the administrative capital to continue, and spending tens of billions on it, while corona is killing Egyptians because the absence of hospitals are not receiving these same billions!" tweeted one user.

"Hospitals are not important for corona, what's important is having the biggest mosque and biggest monument in the new capital," mocked another.

The purpose-built city will be 49km east of the current capital, named Wedian, and has been under construction since 2015.

It is intended to become the country's financial and administrative centre to relieve overcrowding in Cairo.

As well as housing the main government departments and ministries, Wedian will also contain foreign embassies and an airport, as well as hundreds of medical and educational facilities.

However, the city has also drawn criticism for its extravagance as Egyptians face declining living standards, public service cuts, and an economic crisis.

Plans for the desert metropolis include an Eiffel Tower-style monument, a theme park four-times-the-size of Disneyland, the Middle East's largest cathedral and a mega-mosque second only to Mecca's Grand Mosque in size.

Meanwhile, Egypt's largest doctors' union has unleashed fierce criticism against the government, accusing it of mass neglect.

The failure to provide proper funding for medical staff has led to the catastrophic spread of coronavirus, they say.

The Egyptian Medical Syndicate also warned that the country's health system was nearing "complete collapse" of due to the health ministry's failures during the pandemic.

At least 19 Egyptian doctors have died and around 350 are thought to be infected with coronavirus, according to the syndicate.

Egyptians staged rare street protests in September 2019 after details were leaked by whistleblower Mohamed Ali about the president's extravagant spending of public funds on lavish palaces and army residences. The scandal was dubbed "Palacegate".

Meanwhile the regime has imposed stifling austerity measures on the general populace, while financial mismanagement has seen government debt skyrocket.

Around 60 percent of Egyptians either live in poverty or are close to the poverty line, according to the World Bank.


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