Young activists’ campaign urges domestic investment; will businessmen respond?
Campaign's founding members during the pres conference - YOUM7/Hussein Tallal

CAIRO: “The Cry of a Nation” launched Sunday, with a goal to assist internal investment to large national projects, the group’s founding members announced at a press conference.

“When the Egyptian people revolted they hoped for a better future, they asked for social justice with no gender or racial discrimination, they wanted equal opportunities for everybody, based on merit,” read the campaign’s mission statement.

The members, all young activists with varying political affiliations between liberal and socialist, said they decided to start the initiative nearly four years after the leaders of the January 25 Revolution‘s “failure” to obtain real popular support concerning internal fund raising, the lack of proper planning and implementation methods.

“We found an opportunity when President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi established the Long Live Egypt Fund to take matters seriously. There have been previous funds, promises of huge donations, but nothing happened,” said Amr Ali, founder of the campaign, adding that the group aims to persuade people to consider sustainable development in hand with the economy.

The campaign announced two new initiatives:“Citizen,” to which citizens can allocate a portion of their salary, and “Volunteer Hour,” encouraging volunteer work.

The fight against corruption

Members of the campaign said they hope to create an observatory entity to fight corruption, through pursuing those who escape taxes and regain illicitly seized funds.

Tamer al-Qady, co-founder of the campaign and member of the political bureau of the Revolutionary Forces Bloc claimed the members obtained data on the “fortunes” of some businessmen’s thefts up to 900 billion EGP ($126 billion), he told Youm7 Aug.4.

Campaign members even spoke of a possibility to reclaim lands that were allegedly illegally purchased under market prices during the former regime of Hosni Mubarak by powerful businessmen, politicians and ministers. A number of high-profile cases pursuing illegal land deals were acquitted and others still being investigated.

Mubarak’s sons Alaa and Gamal, although cleared by court last December, were accused of  involvement in a case known as the “pilots’ lands,” in which they were accused of illegally seizing 40,000 square meters lands in Ismailia, with the solicitation of former Minister of Civil Aviation Ahmed Shafiq.

In another famous case, known as the “Sodic lands,” Sodic Real Estate Company owner Magdy Rasekh and former Housing Minister Ibrahim Suleiman were initially found guilty by court in April 2013, and ordered to pay compensation fees up to 970 million EGP to the state treasury, and a separate fine of the same amount. The case is currently under appeal.

Cry of a Nation was attacked in the media earlier this week after news spread about the creation of a “businessmen blacklist,” which is the label used by the campaign for those who refused to donate. Several politicians and citizens accused the campaign of ‘blackmailing’ businessmen, or being backed up to pressure business owners in an ”unethical way. ”

In a report published Aug.3 by the economic news website Amwal al-Ghad on the reactions of businessmen to the news, business tycoon Mohamed Farid Khamis of the Oriental Weavers said “forcing” businessmen into donated goes against the spirit of the policy set by President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who said  donations to the fund was a free and personal choice.

Khamis’ name featured on the list of businessmen who donated to the Long Live Egypt Fund a sum of 30 million EGP, reported Youm7 Aug.2

“We urge people to bear social responsibility towards their country, we do not bargain, we want different social categories to contribute for Egypt, especially those who are more privileged. We will keep addressing some businessmen on the issue,” Qady said at the conference.

“We don’t have a list, and we will not before we do  everything we can to get people aligned, but  we cannot make any accusations at the moment,” Qady told The Cairo Post after the conference.

The campaign stated Sunday evening it does not attack businessmen, and that they “do not have the means to force or pressure anyone to help the country.”

Campaign members confirmed to The Cairo Post that their next  goal is to raise funds to help with the recently announced Suez Canal expansion project which is managed by the army, working with other companies under their supervision. The project is to involve 33 Egyptian companies and is estimated to cost $4.09 billion.

These initiatives follow efforts by Sisi to win over businessmen; he has asked them on several occasions to donate funds to boost major projects that might jump-start the economy.

On July 14, Sisi dined with over 50 businessmen and a number of ministers in the Ithadeya presidential palace, during which he appointed a committee of well-known business owners to administer the Long Live Egypt Fund, CEO of Juhayna Food Industries Safwan Thabet told Youm7 shortly after the meeting.

Earlier in July, when Sisi established the Long Live Egypt Fund he announced he would donate half of his salary and his assets. During his speeches, Sisi spoke openly about the budget deficit and the current economic accumulation expressed the sincere need for business owners to invest in national projects.

Although the new fund does not openly share information about its assets, Al-Masry Al-Youm, founded by Egyptian business tycoon Salah Diab, said  July 15 that the funds received have exceeded 5 billion EGP (nearly $ 699 million.)

Several well-known businessmen contributed to Long Live Egypt’s fund various media reported, including Diab, business magnate Naguib Sawiris of Orascom Telecom Holding Mohamed al-Amin of CBC network, Mansour Amer of Amer Group for Real Estate, Mohamed Aboul Enein of Cleopatra Co. for Ceramics, and Hassan Rateb of Sama Group.

Additional reporting by Mohamed el-Galy, Medhat Adel and Iman Ali.

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