The following are excerpts from a discussion on U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos' proposal for changes in U.S. aid to Egypt:
Journalist Ahmed Ridha from Al-Ahram Newspaper: I believe that (US Congressman) Lantos' arrival in Cairo at this time, after he took upon himself to change the American aid to Egypt, was a good idea, and that a dialogue should have taken place with a personality like Lantos so that we could listen to his position and explain the Egyptian position to him.
The talk about the economic aid to Egypt, the rumors that there is corruption in the use of this aid and that it doesn't reach the areas and projects to which it was allocated ? at the end of the day, all this is determined by the mechanism for using this aid. There are mechanisms for determining the use of this aid. At the end of the day, even if there is corruption and neglect of the projects which should receive priority ? all this is determined by the Egyptians and Americans, who agree upon the channeling of this aid.
I don't know if the problem lies with the Egyptians, the Americans, or both. Ultimately, there is a problem, and the best way to resolve it is through dialogue. In the end we will sit down together and see what the funds should best be spent on.
Interviewer: Some claim the aid is too small to talk of a great impact... Maybe that's why Lantos offered to increase aid to Egypt. People say American aid to Egypt is meager and cannot make an impact on the Egyptian economy. This may be what led Tom Lantos to propose converting part of the military aid to economic aid.
Midhat Al-Zahed from the Al-Tagmu' Opposition Party: The first mechanism? Egypt has no say regarding the mechanism. America determines the mechanism. This aid does not enter the Egyptian treasury directly like in Israel. We don't actually receive anything. The aid is conditional upon us buying American merchandise, shipping it via American means of transportation, working only with American companies, and bringing only American experts and training programs. As a result, Egypt loses many benefits and the trade balance between Egypt and the US is at a ratio of approximately 1:6 in favor of the US. This is because part of the aid mechanism increases Egypt's subjugation to US policy.
There is an aggressive (American) agenda, there is an agenda of hegemony. In comparison, we cannot say that Egypt has an agenda of hegemony. If only it had an agenda of independence and sovereignty... In any case, Egypt doesn't have an agenda of hegemony over the world. The US does have such an agenda. It exists and is openly declared. Bush claims that "whoever is not with us is against us". He says that the US is above everybody. Just like Hitler, who said that Germany is above everybody."