CAIRO, (AP) – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday set his sights on an ambitious annual 8 percent economic growth rate over the next five years, laying out his policies ahead of next year’s presidential election.
The 82-year old Mubarak, Egypt’s longest serving president, in office since 1981, has not said whether he will run for office again. He has denied reports he is grooming his son to take over, despite his increasing power in the ruling party.
Mubarak spelled out his economic program at the National Democratic Party’s annual convention, which followed the party’s overwhelming victory in recent parliamentary elections, where it won close to 90 percent of the seats.
International rights groups and opposition complained the elections were marred by widespread fraud. Mubarak dismissed charges of marginalizing opponents, but did not elaborate.
“We at the National Party rise above monopolizing national and political work,” Mubarak said.
He hoped his economic policies would help combat his country’s critical poverty problems.
Egypt’s economy grew by an annual average of 7 percent for three years before the global financial meltdown in 2008. Officials said they expected the economy to grow by about 6 percent in the fiscal year ending in June 2011.
Despite the high growth rate — slightly depressed by the aftereffects of the global crisis to around 5 percent — rising commodity prices and low wages sparked protests over the summer in the Arab world’s most populous country.
Around 40 percent of the country’s 80 million people live on or near the internationally accepted poverty line of $2 a day.
Mubarak told the party meeting that he will personally oversee policy priorities like combatting corruption and giving more power to local governments, and he urged his party to reach out to the people in the streets.
“Tell those who don’t receive the fruits of growth and development that they are on their way. Spread hope,” Mubarak said.
Mubarak recently had gall bladder surgery, fueling speculation about his health and questions about whether he would be physically able to run for another six year term in next year’s presidential election.