At 1973 war ceremony, Morsi's focus stays domestic

Egyptian president says he fell short of his goals in first 100 days, seeks to assuage critics at war anniversary.

Mohamed Morsi (photo credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters)
Mohamed Morsi
(photo credit: Amr Abdallah Dalsh / Reuters)
CAIRO - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said on Saturday he had fallen short of goals he promised to fulfill in his first 100 days in office, but aimed to assuage critics by highlighting his most prominent achievements.
Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, was handed power in June by the army council that ruled Egypt for 16 months following Hosni Mubarak's ouster in a popular uprising in 2011 and after a presidential election.
He spoke on Saturday before tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered at the Cairo stadium to mark the anniversary of Egypt's successful crossing of the Suez Canal in its October 1973 war against Israel.
"When election results were announced and I took up responsibility on June 30, I announced a clear program," Morsi told the crowds, referring to a 100-day plan that broadly focused on issues of security, supply of energy and bread, street cleanliness, and traffic decongestion.
"What has been achieved is not enough of course, but what has been achieved by professional standards is about 70 percent of what we targetted during those 100 days."
Morsi said that among his government's main shortcomings was the ability to supply butane gas cylinders to Egyptians. Millions of home do not have natural gas piped into their homes.
The state currently sells butane cylinders at about 5 Egyptian pounds ($0.82) each as part of its energy subsidy program. The actual cost of the cylinders is about 65 pounds.
"There is a 15 percent supply shortage that pains us all but there are reasons for this. We are not trying to escape responsibility," Morsi said, citing deep-rooted corruption in the country as one of the reasons for insufficient supplies.
Amongst his top achievements, however, Morsi stressed the interior ministry's work to step up security in the country, which had deteriorated after last year's uprising.
Seeking to ward off criticisms that he had placed foreign policy ahead of domestic affairs, Morsi said his travels to Addis Abbaba, Beijing, and New York among other destinations since his election were targetted at boosting the economy.
"We conducted 9 trips in 11 days. They brought the economy around $10 billion in the form of direct support as well as investment projects during a brief period," Morsi said.
Egypt is seeking to secure a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to plug an unmanageable budget deficit. Reducing state expenditure by targeting subsidies more toward the needy is seen as vital for receiving the loan.
Morsi told the crowds that he was not veering away from his Islamist principles by accepting the loan since Islamic law normally forbids paying of interest.
"Some are asking whether the loan is considered usury or not. I do not accept at all that Egyptians get fed off usury," Morsi said. "1.1 percent (interest rate), is this usury?"
Though the crowds cheered him, some criticized what they said was a populist speech aimed at concealing shortcomings.
"The government over-promised," said Sherif ElGhatrifi, head of an insurance firm. "There is little substance in what Morsi said, no clear messages he wants to give except excuses for not delivering. I do not feel any change on the streets."