Presidential spokesperson blames tax debacle on political tension

“Mistakes happened over the past few days due to political conflicts,” presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali said Monday, referring to President Mohamed Morsy raising taxes on a number of commodities than freezing the tax hike only hours later.

The decision to levy new taxes on goods including alcohol and cigarettes was not fully thought through because of the ongoing political crisis, Ali said during a press conference at the presidential palace. He added that Morsy decided to suspend the new taxes in order to hold a social discussion about them.

Ali asserted that fears of price increases due to higher taxes were unreasonable. The presidential office was considering the potential impact of tax hikes on low income communities, Ali claimed, promising that the increased tax revenue would be used to develop neglected municipalities and towns.

Citizens should confront any vendors who raise prices following the decision to freeze the taxes, Ali said, assuring that the government would work to prevent this from happening.

Ali also reported that the High Judicial Elections Commission has requested the support of the Armed Forces during the constitutional referendum on 15 December.

The referendum is taking place in the midst of a growing rift between Morsy and Islamist forces, and the president's opposition, who accuse him and the Muslim Brotherhood of dominating the political process, including the drafting of the constitution. 

Ali said that dialogue between the ruling power and the opposition must take place regardless of the referendum’s outcome, stressing that the administration would respect the results of the referendum.  

The presidential office is confident that all political forces want what is best for the nation, he added, saying that the presidency respects the right to free expression as long as it is peaceful and property is not damaged.

Ali expressed the president’s readiness to participate in a national dialogue with the opposition to propose amendments on controversial constitutional articles that could be discussed by the next Parliament.  

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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