An Irritated El-Sisi Says It's Time the State Gets Its Due

(Bloomberg) -- Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is losing his patience.

In a ceremony marking the opening of a housing project in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, El-Sisi took provincial and military officials as well as ministers to task over what he said was the state’s failure to get what it is owed.

“Give them their due and we take ours,” El-Sisi said, interrupting a presentation by Alexandria’s governor and appearing to lose his temper several times with the official and others in the audience.

The Egyptian leader, who was re-elected earlier this year, has made a habit of impromptu speeches during public events. His comments at such ceremonies often provide policy direction. They are also aimed at burnishing his image as a man of the people who has taken a hands-on approach to dealing with any and all issues as the nation looks to rebuild its economy after the 2011 uprising.

He stressed that new electricity, gas and water meters in the housing projects being inaugurated must be pre-paid instead of having state employees chase payment. The current system across much of the country relies on power company employees going house to house to read meters to determine usage -- a practice that has been derided as inaccurate and inefficient.

El-Sisi didn’t stop there. He also ordered the interior minister, Alexandria’s governor and the military’s chief for the northern part of the country to devise a strategy to deal with illegal housing across the area, describing it as an issue of national security.

Grilling the officials, he asked if the fact that such housing was allowed to remain suggested that the nation simply had to accept transgressions because they had continued for so long.

“We in Egypt got used to doing the wrong thing,” El-Sisi said. “That ends.”

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