Throughout the past decades, and since the sixties of the last century, successive regimes and governments in Egypt have used the population increase to justify inadequate services, failure to achieve development, economic failure, poverty, and price rises that crush citizens.

On more than one occasion, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has said that the increase in population thwarted the development made by his government and that the citizen does not feel prosperous and progressive because the number of Egyptians exceeded 100 million. Al-Sisi’s allegations and justification of failure with his predecessors on combating overpopulation are nullified by experts’ assertions that overpopulation is a blessing and not a curse. The state can benefit from this increase, as some countries like China have done.

Al-Sisi’s latest statements about the overpopulation problem as he sees it came in a speech he gave during the opening of some educational projects in Alexandria. The population is expected to reach 193 million by 2050, and is the reason behind the high cost of living and the decline of the Egyptian pound. Al-Sisi said: “Egypt has increased from 4 million people to 100 million in 200 years. Therefore, it is expected that we will increase in 2050 to 193 million people. Al-Sisi’s recurrent statements that the cause of high prices and the collapse of the economy is because of the increase in population, indicates the regime’s resort to holding citizens responsible for his failures.

If the system has failed to benefit from the increase in population, it has also failed to confront and limit it, despite spending millions of pounds on family planning campaigns and birth control programmes. From time to time, government campaigns come out under different names through the Ministry of Health and Population, supported by television ads and religious fatwas warning about what it calls the risk of overpopulation. The results show the failure of all these campaigns.

Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly said in previous statements that the state is currently taking measures to support it by limiting it to only two children per family to discourage citizens from having more than two children. Al-Sisi considered overpopulation a threat to national security and no less dangerous than terrorism. It is noteworthy that the Egyptian regime has used the population increase as a peg for its economic failure and at the level of services and accused the Brotherhood, which it opposes, of being the reason behind the population increase during the past years.

The reporter of the National Population Council, Amr Hassan, said that the Muslim Brotherhood has caused the high population increase in Egypt since 2011. In statements to Egyptian media, Hassan claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood encouraged increased childbearing and the lack of family planning. According to him, the group linked the increase in childbearing to religion during their rule, adding that Egypt ranks seventh globally in terms of population increase.

Blessing or curse?

And if the regime uses the MB to justify any problem it faces and accuses the group of being behind it or causing it, why did the reporter of the National Population Council not accuse it of causing the population increase? Many experts and specialists recognise the benefits of this increase and the ways to benefit from it. For his part, the head of the Egyptian Centre for Media and Public Opinion Studies, Mustafa Khoudary, affirms that the population increase is a factor that helps the progress and growth of production in promising countries. In contrast, the failed states see them as a peg on which to hang their failures.

Economist Moustafa Shaheen also believes that population density is supposed to be a force factor for the economy in any country and not vice versa. He pointed out that China has the largest population density, and its economic growth rate has reached huge status in recent history. Social researcher Safaa Salah al-Din rejected the media campaign against childbearing and overpopulation, considering that this comes within the framework of the methodology for holding citizens fully responsible for the crises and setbacks Egypt is going through. The economist Ahmed Khuzayem also criticised the state of intimidation by the regime and believed that whoever considers the increase in population to be a crisis is the person or the administration that does not know the best use of human resources, like all other natural resources.