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Egypt parliament speaker warns MPs not to criticise monetary policy

Cairo, Egypt | AFP |

The speaker of Egypt’s parliament has threatened to take disciplinary action against members who publicly criticise the government’s monetary policy, raising further questions about the legislature’s independence.

Ali Abdel-Al told MPs on Sunday that the country faces foreign “conspiracies”, and “constructive criticism is accepted, but not when it is in the context of destruction”, according to parliament’s website.

The speaker was referring to “a systematic campaign abroad to destroy the country’s constitutional institutions”, the report said.

Abdel-Al’s comments were the latest in a parliament seen largely by analysts as a rubber-stamp assembly designed to pass laws for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi with little debate.

Sisi and the Central Bank, which manages monetary policy, have come under rising criticism amid an acute dollar crunch which has led to a rise in prices including of medicines, with hundreds of products becoming unavailable or hard to find.

Some local firms have also scaled back their business activity as they struggle to find dollars to import raw materials.

In March, the central bank devalued the Egyptian pound by 14.3 percent to 8.95 to the US dollar amid a shortage which has worsened over the past few months, with black markets offering the dollar at much higher rates.

“Some have been keen to appear on television shows to discuss the state’s monetary policy, an issue which leads to harmful consequences,” Abdel-Al told MPs.

“Therefore all parliament members must refrain from speaking about the state’s monetary policy as it could expose it (the country) to harmful ramifications.

“Those who violate these instructions will be referred to the ethics committee,” he warned.

MP Ahmed al-Tantawi criticised the speaker’s comments, telling AFP: “We are dealing with members of parliament, not high school students.”

Other lawmakers backed Abdel-Al, however.

“He said it in the form of advice, not as a threat, and this is very acceptable,” said New Wafd party member Magdy Bayoumi.

Ashraf Iskander, also of the New Wafd party, said that “truthfully, this falls under the topic of national security”, adding that guidelines were needed on how to discuss the topic.

“I read that one organisation held more than one workshop for some members at which they discussed this topic. There seems to be some suspicion of incitement against the state,” Iskander said.

The current parliament was elected last year with a low turnout of 28.3 percent two years after the army overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and unleashed a bloody crackdown on his followers.

Live broadcasts from parliament stopped after its first two chaotic sessions that featured Abdel-Al shouting at lawmakers for not following procedure.

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