The Planning and Budget Committee of the Senate, the upper house of Egypt’s parliament, is debating a new planning law that is meant to take economic planning out of small decision-making circles and encourage a more decentralised approach by making local authorities responsible for planning decisions instead of waiting for decisions made by central government.
The bill is slated to be discussed in a general session in the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, soon. Among its conditions is the availability of sufficient funding and land for new projects.
During the discussion in the Senate Planning Committee, Minister of Planning Hala Al-Said said the bill would enable the concerned authorities to evaluate and follow up on new projects. It will also oblige them to submit regular reports on the performance of new projects to enhance their efficiency.
The new law is in line with constitutional articles relevant to local government and decentralisation, she said, adding that local authorities would be able to prepare their own development plans for projects and pool financial resources to direct them.
The bill says that projects cannot be registered in the absence of available land and that they may not be subject to legal disputes. Besides giving importance to the reasons that lead to halting projects financed from the public treasury, the law also highlights that projects financed through foreign loans or grants have to be in line with the state’s social and economic plans.
Mustafa Salem, deputy head of the House of Representatives Planning and Budget Committee, said the House would discuss the bill next week, adding that he believed it to conform to political and social reality on the ground.
The planning principles embedded in the bill reflect the rights enshrined in Egypt’s 2014 constitution, he said, adding that the new law was meant to lay the groundwork for the bases upon which the country’s sustainable development plans — on the local and national levels and including on the ministerial and administrative fronts — are implemented.
The draft comprises all matters related to planning in the shorter and longer terms, Salem noted, stating that it focuses on preparing and implementing sustainable development on the economic, social, and environmental levels.
It will replace an older law on the preparation of the public budget. “Amending the law has become imperative. The older version is no longer feasible, constitutionally and practically,” Salem said.
The new law moves towards decentralisation and transferring responsibilities to different local authorities. It focuses on evaluation, follow-up, and places a steady emphasis on sustainable development, he said.
It includes the establishment of a supreme council for planning and sustainable development headed by the president to coordinate the authorities concerned with planning and development and to maximise the efficiency of the planning process.
It defines the drafting of planning documents at the national, regional, and local levels and clarifies the relationship between urban plans and economic and social development plans. It identifies planning principles that have proven successful worldwide, such as sustainability, diversity, flexibility, balance, the opening up to society, and encouraging innovation, Salem added.
One of the advantages of the new law is the close coordination it encourages between sectoral development and spatial development, he said, adding that it is in line with constitutional articles relevant to local and decentralised administration, enabling local authorities to plan and implement projects independently.
“This is one of the most important laws parliament is debating this session because the current law focuses on central control, while the new bill encourages the devolution of authority, which is an important trend and is stated in the constitution,” Salem said.
Hani Serrieddin, chair of the Economic Committee of the Senate, said the new law focuses on the preparation of economic, social, and environmental development plans and technical concepts represented in sustainable development plans.
According to the current law, the public sector is the main player in the field, whereas the new law targets drawing the private sector in with 25 per cent of investments.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 25 November, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.