"We want a president who is concerned with our daily lives and will help provide us with the necessities of life, like food, drink and education," said Nagi Saeed, 63, when asked about his favourite candidate in the upcoming presidential elections in Egypt.
Like Saeed, millions of Egyptians follow the presidential candidates daily on television and at public events to analyse how their electoral platforms offer to fix the nation's faltering economy.
Observers say many of the candidates are working diligently to convince citizens that they hold the key to solving the problems of unemployment, wages, and investment.
Most candidates' economic platforms call for national projects that would employ millions of young Egyptians and eliminate a large fraction of poverty. The Suez Canal, Sinai, and the slums are mentioned as top development priorities.
Amr Moussa, the former secretary-general of the Arab League, said he will reduce poverty by 20% and unemployment by 50% in his first presidential term through national projects, such as developing the Suez Canal into a global trade and shipbuilding centre, and allocating large investments into Sinai.
Moussa also pledged to restructure government spending and lower the general budget deficit to a safe range within the first few months of his term.
Dr. Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, proposed to increase budget revenue by adopting a tax policy of direct and progressive taxes to increase the overall tax base. He also pledged to implement new local and foreign investment regulations.
Aboul Fotouh promised to reduce unemployment by creating 1.5 million jobs through a series of national projects. He would create a database to track the unemployed and link them to the job market and encourage expansion of small and medium-sized enterprises.
There were 3.2 million unemployed Egyptians in 2011, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics. Unofficial estimates are higher based on the number of factory and small business closures during the year.
Left-wing candidates such as Hamdeen Sabahi, a journalist and political activist, Khaled Ali, an economic and social rights activist, and Abul-Ezz al-Hariri, a member of the People's Assembly, all focused on transforming Egypt's economy to a "mixed economy with socialist leanings."
Sabahi's electoral platform calls for increasing the role of the state and the public sector in the economy. The private sector would have a role as long as it does not engage in monopolistic practices. He supports returning some companies that were privatised during Hosni Mubarak's tenure to state ownership.
Economist Dr. Hamdi Abdel Azim told Al-Shorfa that the candidates' platforms included several strong initiatives, such as developing the provinces of Upper Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.
"Upper Egypt province has suffered severe neglect for decades even though it possesses all the necessities for development, such as vast areas of potential arable land, huge industrial and trade investment opportunities, and skilled labour. However, it still lacks adequate road networks and airports that are required to facilitate transport operations," he said.
Abdel Azim said most platforms talk about funding salaries and solving the budget deficit without specifying what funding sources would be used to fulfil those promises, at a time when foreign investment and the annual growth rate have declined significantly and the subsidy bill has risen.
"The Egyptian economy has declined dramatically over the past 18 months, forcing most candidates to adopt similar programmes that call for repairing the economy by solving the budget deficit, raising the income level and luring back foreign investment that left Egypt recently," said Dr. Magda Kandil, director of the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies.
She said all the candidates have offered sound economic objectives but they lack clear implementation strategies because currently available resources are designated for bridging the budget deficit and preserving foreign exchange reserves, and are not sufficient to finance new national projects.
The elections will be held Wednesday and Thursday (May 23rd-24th), and if necessary a runoff will be held June 16th-17th. The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has stated it will hand over power to the new president on July 1st.