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Egyptian Surprise; Interview with Egyptian PM Hesham Kandil

Aired September 10, 2012 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Tonight we zero in on the Egyptian surprise, quick and assertive leadership from the new president, Mohammed Morsi; optimism among the people about the path they're now on and even glimmers of an economic revival.

Tonight, my exclusive interview with Egypt's newly sworn-in prime minister, Hesham Kandil, his first TV convention with the international press.

When President Morsi took over in June, there were fears that he would either become a puppet of the country's famously powerful military or a champion of an Islamic fundamentalist state, even though before the election he assured me he wouldn't.


MOHAMMED MORSI, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): There is no such thing called an Islamic democracy. There is democracy only. And democracy is the instrument that is present now. The people are the source of authority. The social mindset is there are a people and the people chooses. That's democracy. And that agrees with consultation called for in Islam.


AMANPOUR: And since Morsi's been in office, he's gone out of his way to make that clear. Last month, he grabbed the first chance he could to fire the head of Egypt's ruling military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, after a deadly terror attack in the Sinai.

Then he surprised those who had criticized his trip to Iran by publicly confronting his host over their support for Syria's Bashar al- Assad, calling his regime oppressive and illegitimate. And his newly appointed prime minister, Hesham Kandil, is a young technocrat, albeit devout. He's U.S. educated, a former irrigation minister, and his job is to turn around Egypt's stagnant economy.

And so far, religious and secular Egyptians like what they see. A survey found that 77 percent approve the country's course.

My interview with Prime Minister Kandil in a moment. But first, coming up later in the program --



AMANPOUR (voice-over): Decision-making in the Oval Office.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm a decision-maker. I had to come up with a way forward that precluded disaster.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): A Nobel prizewinning psychologist puts global leadership on the couch.

And childhood games in Afghanistan, skateboards may be fun, but terror waits at the end of the ramp.


AMANPOUR: We'll get to that in a bit, but first, Hesham Kandil's job is like that of virtually every leader around the world these days, cut government spending, get people back to work and reboot the economy.


AMANPOUR: Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, thank you very much for joining me from Cairo.


AMANPOUR: Let me ask you right off, because you are the recipient of quite a lot of encouraging news. There seems to be quite a lot of optimism. You have a very senior American official and business delegation who's visiting Cairo right now and all sorts of nations around you are vying to get in on the new Egypt, get in on the action.

What is it that people want and what do you hope to get from these high-level commitments?

KANDIL: Well, first of all, I would like to say that I'm being -- I'm very proud of, you know, being part of this new Egypt. I think this government and the people of Egypt are making history. Egypt is coming back -- is becoming -- is going to become, you know, a center of excellence for the region and maybe for the rest of the world.

So for those few people coming to join us in this journey, we told them that we have great opportunities for them to invest, to be a part of this, and we're prepared to help them with easy entry and easy exit and that they will have a win-win situation, that they can come here and make profit and -- as well as provide us with jobs and help this country in this transitional period.

AMANPOUR: Your president and you yourself have said that the priorities of the economy and security -- obviously tourism is a huge part of the Egyptian economy. So is foreign investment. Both of those have been lagging since the uprising began.

How are you going to consolidate and make sure that foreign investment and tourism come back?

KANDIL: Well, for tourism, security is the main issue. So, you know, we -- we're working hard and improving the security measures in Egypt. We're taking serious steps to restore law and order. And this is really paying off.

People are feeling more secure. Tourism industry is picking up. We have some good news for this winter season and many countries have lifted the ban for travel to Cairo as well as to southern Egypt.

So this will -- this give us very good indications about the winter season, especially this kind of tourism we call culture tourism, concentrated around the Nile, Luxor and Aswan. Those areas are currently deserted. But with this encouraging news from everywhere, there is a good indication that this season will be very different from the previous one.

AMANPOUR: And in terms of the country itself, you know, President Morsi resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood. He said that he would appoint mostly technocrats to his government, which he did.

There are some five members of the Muslim Brotherhood. But can you assure the people of Egypt and the people of the rest of the world that it's not going to be come an Iran-style fundamentalist theocracy?

KANDIL: Absolutely. Absolutely. We're no -- and I keep telling the people that come to visit me that -- especially those that have dealt with me on previous occasions, that even selected Hesham Kandil as the prime minister of Egypt is an excellent evidence that how moderate this country would be.

For the economic issue we're facing two -- we're working in two different tracks, you know, not very different; they're parallel.

The one is about the deficit, because we have a large deficit to the 135 billion Egyptian pounds, which is a little bit more than US$20 billion. So this is something we need to work on.

And the second is we want to revive the economy to provide more investment and creating more jobs for the people of Egypt. We want to increase our investment so the next year we'll borrow less. We want to make sure that we provide more jobs for our people. We need to bring fresh money.

How do we do that? I guess the presence of the large crowd from the U.S.A. yesterday and today is a good evidence of what we are doing.

I received delegations from, you know, I don't want to be exaggerated, but let's say 10 countries within the last month. All of them are enthusiastic and looking forward to put money in this country.

A very important thing that we're focusing in -- and I think this is very different from the previous governments or regimes that we're very serious about fighting corruption and being transparent and doing the right thing for our people. This is very important.

AMANPOUR: Well, it sounds great. I mean, you're laying out an incredible sort of tray (ph) there. You talk about the debt. You talk about foreign governments, you know, the United States, as you well know, is speeding up its $1 billion in debt relief.

I want to ask you about relations with the United States, because historically, of course, Egypt and the U.S. have been very close, not just leader to leader, but military to military.

President Morsi's new chief of staff has written papers and spoken about the U.S. needing to get out of the Middle East, pulling its -- all its troops out and ending what it called -- what he called a one-sided policy that fuels hatred.

People in America are concerned. What does that mean?

KANDIL: Well, I guess, you know, I won't be speaking words, but maybe I will speak facts, because since his inauguration he has been meeting many American officials and American business men and all what you're talking about, I will -- like he talked about, and as -- me as well of course -- is of how to -- how to make this relationship stronger, how to make it more flourish for the best interests of the region.

And I guess the positions that he took in Iran and the position now he's taking, you know, regarding the Syria situation, shows that we're serious about doing business. This is our region and we want to be a key player in this region. And I think it is for the best interest of everybody that we have a very strong relationship with United States of America.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned what the president did in Iran and certainly that was a surprise. Many people were surprised that he stood up and essentially, in front of his host, talked about the oppressive Syrian regime. And of course, Iran supports the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

What was he trying to say? Why did he go to Iran to deliver that message?

KANDIL: Well, I guess it was clear, because he wanted to tell the truth. This is how our people feel about the situation in Syria. And he was attending the conference there. You know, we had to hand over the chairmanship and we wanted also -- I mean, we want to be friends with all countries in the region.

But we want also to have a balanced relationship where we can tell, you know, where we can call a spade a spade.

AMANPOUR: Another thing that surprised the world, I think, was the speed with which President Morsi essentially changed the military hierarchy, relieving Field Marshal Tantawi of his command and basically putting in his own people.

Does President Morsi want to challenge the military? What kind of relationship will he have with the military, particularly in the economic sphere, given that they control so much of the economic pie?

KANDIL: Well, let me -- let me put it this way. I think since -- you know, we had -- we really had a great revolution in January last year, you know, it was a miracle to remove the regime of Mubarak in 18 days. Since then, we -- at the beginning, we had an excellent atmosphere. I was not -- I was not in Egypt during the revolution.

I was in Tunis, Tunisia, another lovely country. And I was -- when I come back, there was a very positive atmosphere, an attitude from everybody. But this thing started to dissipate and disappear and this transitional period turned out to be a very difficult period, and many times, you know, ugly and bloody.

When President Morsi was elected, there was also some confusion. But when he took those decisions on August 12th, I guess the main purpose of his decisions were to clear this confusion, to tell the people and the world and the region that he is the elected president, you know, we all are proud of him because he is the first freely civilian elected in the modern history of Egypt.

So -- and he is going to stay for four years, of course, provided that he and we do a good job -- and we intend to do that. We are very much determined to do so. And I was an eyewitness when Field Marshal was asked to go. He just did, you know, he said, yes, sir, and he went home. And that showed very clearly to everybody, Egyptians and non-Egyptian, this is a professional army and they were doing their job.

Whether they did an excellent job or not, this is something that we can talk about. But when, you know, when they were asked to leave, they left without any resistance.

And I think this is something that we all admire and personally I was very much impressed by how they reacted to the request of President Morsi. And what he did really, I think, saved us -- it moved us ahead five or six years.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, you mentioned the press -- and there are quite a lot of complaints about what's happening among some areas of the press in Egypt. People have been relieved of their jobs; there have been travel bans, some have been referred to trial for quote-unquote "charges insulting the president."

You know, this -- why is this happening? Why is the new government acting like the old government when it comes to at least one or two elements and members of the press?

KANDIL: No, I think -- I think what this government is doing is applying the law. And what the press -- the press, of course, enjoys a freedom that hasn't happened before. So some of them are going way too much. It's not about insulting the president, it's about spreading rumors that undermine the national security.

So when they talk about militias in the corners, so you walk up, you know, as a citizen of Egypt, and reads his paper, he expect to see militias and arms at the corner of his house, and they keep insisting on saying things that are false; they are not based on fact. They have no evidence.

I think -- you know, according to the law and to even common sense, they would have to ask to stop. And this is what the government did. In many cases, there were people complaining about, not even the government complaining.

AMANPOUR: Prime Minister, thank you very much indeed for joining me.

KANDIL: Christiane, thank you very much.


AMANPOUR: And as President Morsi asserts his authority in Egypt, I'll ask a Nobel prizewinning psychologist what does the public want in its leaders? Quick thinking? Deliberation? Or all of the above?

But first, take a look at this picture. You've probably seen it before, but that is President Morsi in Tehran, as we were discussing. He's on the right, criticizing Iran for backing the Assad regime in Syria. When he spoke to the Non-Aligned Summit in Tehran last month.

On the left is Iran's unsmiling President Ahmadinejad, conferring with his foreign minister and his sound technician. Perhaps they were looking for a plug to pull. We'll be right back.



AMANPOUR: And welcome back to the program. As we've just been discussing, Egypt's new president, Mohammed Morsi, is surprising people in both his strength and his direction. And in the United States, men with two very different approaches are right now vying to become president, as you all know. Leadership style profoundly affects the country's direction.

Daniel Kahneman is an expert on this. For decades, the Nobel winning psychologist has studied thinking processes and decision-making. He delves further into the machinery of the mind in his newest book, "Thinking Fast and Slow."

Professor Kahneman joins me now.

Welcome, thank you to our -- thank you for coming in.


AMANPOUR: So, "Thinking Fast and Slow," when you look at the presidential candidates in the United States, for instance, and President Obama, we know, has read your book, what kind of a thinker is he?

KAHNEMAN: Well, he definitely what I call a system 2 thinker. He is a slow thinker. He deliberates. The biggest contrast is not between him and Romney. I think the biggest contrast is between him and his predecessor --


AMANPOUR: So when you say --

KAHNEMAN: -- who was --

AMANPOUR: -- he is slow, what do you mean exactly?

KAHNEMAN: Well, what I mean is that he is very deliberate. And I'm not sure that -- you know, he doesn't go by -- he doesn't follow his gut immediately. He considers things. He is -- he is very thoughtful.

President Bush, you know, his predecessor, was proud of acting on his intuition, acting on his gut. My guess is that Governor Romney is thoughtful as well and is slow as well (inaudible).

AMANPOUR: So are you making a value judgment about this? In other words, what do people want? If you ask the people, what do they want in (inaudible)?


KAHNEMAN: Well, you know, they want a leader who will do the right thing, but they also like a particular style. And the style they like best is a leader that appears very confident. And part of confidence is speed. So my sense is that on several occasions during his presidency, President Obama has taken time. And he's taken enough time so that his critics were saying, well, he's too slow; he's dithering.

People like somebody who acts quickly. The main thing is they like somebody who does the right thing, I think.

AMANPOUR: But liking somebody who acts quickly, again, you said President Bush is perceived to have acted quickly and from his gut. If people like that, does that necessarily, as you say, you know, arrive at doing the right thing?

KAHNEMAN: Not necessarily. I mean, my, you know, in general, I would think that being thoughtful is an advantage over being intuitive. I mean, life is extremely complicated and intuition is not necessarily the best guide to, you know, very important decisions.

So I think thoughtfulness and listening to others and so on are advantages for leaders of major organizations, governments and nations.

AMANPOUR: But then how do you reconcile that, what you say, with -- I mean, this is a democracy, with what the people want?


AMANPOUR: And what the press will tolerate? You just said, thoughtful, slow thinking allows somebody else to fill that vacuum.

KAHNEMAN: Oh, absolutely. I think there is a political price for being thoughtful, you know. (Inaudible) democracies. There is a political price for not really being sure. There is a political price -- I think President Obama actually said that somewhere -- I forget where I read that recently -- but, you know, he said -- oh, yes, it's in the piece by Michael Lewis (ph) in "Vanity Fair."

He said you're taking decisions which are 51-49 and you have to appear as if your confidence is 100 percent. So you have to present more confidence than you necessarily feel. And he is, I think, suffers quite a bit.

AMANPOUR: Well, is it -- is it (inaudible) democracy in the way that you were talking about, what about the economy? You know, we've seen the economic crisis has put a lot of focus on the people who operate the machinery, the stock traders, the people on the floor, et cetera. And they're always very proud of fast, their gut. How does that work there?

KAHNEMAN: Well, I mean, it works in the same way. I mean, by and large, we put a lot of premium on two things. We put a lot of premium on optimism and on confidence. And people who look optimistic and confident, they have a much better chance of being elected as leaders. They have a much bigger chance to get to influence other people's lives. So --

AMANPOUR: When you --

KAHNEMAN: -- (inaudible) that way.

AMANPOUR: When you assess what happened during the crash and even now still, what do you think when you think about these sort of human impulses that perhaps led to that?


AMANPOUR: And what lessons should be learned?

KAHNEMAN: Well, we're (inaudible) in the world, many things that led to that. Clearly, on the part of the people who bought mortgages that they couldn't afford, that's a classic case of people are overconfident, who act in a world they don't understand, who are open to exploitation by other people.

What we've seen since, you know, as a psychologist talking, the thing that is most striking in that we respond to the situation, people don't respond to what could have been. So the major argument is it could have been worse. But that argument has relatively little traction.

AMANPOUR: You, along with the Gallup organization, pioneered a really fascinating study on happiness, about money, of course, and your conclusion was that, you know, too much money doesn't necessarily buy happiness.

What did you conclude was the cutoff point and what buys happiness?

KAHNEMAN: Well, you know, I mean, in the first place, happiness is complicated. So there are at least two different ways of looking at it. How satisfied you are with your life and how happy you are as you live. You know, your mood, your emotional state.

Now in terms of mood and emotional state, it's awful to be poor in this country. It's worse than in some other countries, which are more egalitarian. In this country, it is really awful. But beyond $70,000- 75,000 for a household, more income adds nothing.

AMANPOUR: In terms of happiness?

KAHNEMAN: In terms of mood and happiness and emotional happiness. In terms of life satisfaction, the more the better. People who have a lot of money consider themselves more successful; society considers them more successful. And they're more satisfied with their life.

AMANPOUR: But in terms of pure happiness, that 77 --


KAHNEMAN: Seems to be enough.

AMANPOUR: It's amazing, that.

KAHNEMAN: I think it's pretty amazing, especially because this is true -- it's true in expensive places. So you know, people ask me, what about New York? That's true in New York, probably.

AMANPOUR: It is true?

KAHNEMAN: Yes, yes. It's in the expensive places -- so that is an income that is, you know, you're not -- the problem seems to be whether you have to obsess about money all the time. And when you're poor, really poor, you have to obsess about money all the time. Be able to afford many things, people seem to find happiness even when they can't buy it.

AMANPOUR: Professor Kahneman, thank you very much for your insights.

KAHNEMAN: Thank you.

AMANPOUR: Thanks for coming in.

KAHNEMAN: Thank you very much.

AMANPOUR: And nowhere are the limits of leadership more obvious than in Afghanistan, where the U.S.-led coalition is leading that country to its own uncertain fate. However, one thing is certain: Afghanistan's children remain at risk. And helmets and kneepads won't protect them -- when we come back.

But first, you may notice the #Amanpour there, right above me. And if you're using Twitter, you can use that to join the conversation about the topics on our program with other viewers from around the world. We'll be right back.




AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, imagine a world where childhood is an endangered species. Previously on this program, I've reported on Skateistan. It's an organization that provides the kids of Kabul, Afghanistan, a way to escape the twin terrors of poverty and the Taliban by skateboarding, just by having fun.

In a country where corruption is rampant and public funding for school projects is scarce, Skateistan uses private donations to maintain the skate park where 400 kids come every week. Some boys walk six miles to get there. And it's not just boys who go; 40 percent of the children are girls, making it the largest coed sport in the country.

But this weekend, there was yet another suicide bombing in Kabul. Most of the victims were children. Among them were five young members of Skateistan. Four of them were killed, including two sisters, 13 and 8 years old. And the suicide bomber? He was a child as well. His age, we're told, between 12 and 14.

In Afghanistan, as international forces prepare to leave, terrorism is once again on the rise, and it can't be outrun, even on a skateboard.

That's it for tonight's program. Meantime, our inbox is always open, Thanks for watching. Goodbye from New York.