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New York City, Nov. 09, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Cairo-based Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies (ECPPS) has been selected as this year’s winner of Atlas Network’s prestigious $100,000 Templeton Freedom Award for its “Better Budget for a Better Egypt” initiative, which helped bring about the country’s 25-point jump in the Open Budget Survey, fostered greater civic engagement, and occurred amidst the Egyptian government’s decision to cut all energy subsidies after 2019. The award, generously supported by the Templeton Religion Trust, was presented during Atlas Network's Freedom Dinner on Nov. 8 in New York City at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

“The hope that accompanied the Arab Spring in 2011 went unrealized because moderate voices in civil society went unheard,” said Brad Lips, CEO of Atlas Network. “How tremendously encouraging that ECPPS has answered the call and inspired the Egyptian government to move toward transparency and inclusiveness!”

After the dust settled following the Arab Spring, Egypt’s score fell dramatically on the Open Budget Index, which measures government transparency and citizen engagement in the budget-making process.

Seeking a more transparent and accountable state, the Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies, developed a program to tackle three longstanding problems in Egypt’s budgeting process, which were: a lack of transparency; limited citizen inclusion in the budget-making process; and out-of-control energy subsidies, which accounted for a third of all government expenditures.

After four years working on the project partnering with various stakeholders and the Ministry of Finance to address each issue, Egypt’s score on the Open Budget Index increased 25 points from 16 to 41 in 2017, citizen participation in the budget exists for the first time, and the Egyptian government announced that it will cut all energy subsidies after 2019. Energy subsidies had constituted one of the most alarming expenditures in the budget. This became a widely discussed problem and, after the International Monetary Fund weighed in, the Egyptian government announced its decision to cut them.

At a time when budgeting reform in Egypt seemed politically impossible, ECPPS helped make it politically inevitable. And at the end of the day, this project means greater government transparency, better civic engagement, and more opportunities for civil society to have a voice in Egypt.

"In a politically challenging environment such as the one we're dealing with in Egypt, the most difficult challenge for a think tank is to find a way to drive positive change that is concrete, measurable and, above all, sustainable," said Ahmed Ragab, executive director of ECPPS. "This task is even harder if you have a classical liberal agenda. With 'Better Budget for a Better Egypt,’ ECPPS found the perfect balance between practical success, helping improve Egypt's score in the Open Budget Survey by 25 points up from a meager score of 16 points in 2015 to 41 points in 2017, and finding a space for classical liberal ideas in the public debate in Egypt, with near-daily visibility in the media and closer ties with lawmakers and opinion leaders.”

About the Templeton Freedom Award and the additional 2018 finalists:

Awarded since 2004, the Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. The award annually honors his legacy by identifying and recognizing the most exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise, and the public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment via free competition. The award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and was presented during Atlas Network’s Freedom Dinner on Nov. 8 in New York City at the Intrepid Sea, Air, & Space Museum. ECPPS received a $100,000 prize, and five additional finalists received $25,000 prizes.

About Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies
Cairo-based Egyptian Center for Public Policy Studies proposes public policies aimed at reforming the legal and the economic system in Egypt, with the purpose of achieving the principles of free markets, limited government, individual freedom, and strong rule of law.

About Atlas Network
Washington-based Atlas Network is a nonprofit organization that strengthens the worldwide freedom movement by connecting more than 475 independent partners in over 90 countries that share the vision of a free, prosperous, and peaceful world where limited governments defend the rule of law, private property, and free markets. AtlasNetwork.org

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