CAIRO (AP) -- In a story March 8 about Egypt's military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, The Associated Press reported erroneously how much Egypt spends annually on fuel subsidies. The country spends nearly $20 billion a year, not $2 billion.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Egypt's military chief making plans for campaign
Officials say Egypt's military chief planning projects to boost economy ahead of campaign
By HAMZA HENDAWI
CAIRO (AP) -- As he nears announcing a run for Egypt's presidency, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has been focusing on preparing an economic program, senior generals and government officials say, demonstrating the wariness within the military over the scale of problems facing the country.
The military, Egypt's most powerful institution, has put its reputation on the line with an el-Sissi presidency, after its top generals publicly backed his candidacy in January. That means it too could face a public backlash if his administration fails in a country that since 2011 has already risen up in massive protests against two presidents.
Two generals close to el-Sissi said the military was well aware of the difficulty in repairing an economy in need of reform even before the 2011 fall of longtime autocrat Hosni Mubark and further wrecked by turmoil since. The two and other government officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss the candidacy in line with regulations.
"We love him where he is, but he has decided to jump into a fireball," said one army general of el-Sissi, who currently holds the posts of defense minister, deputy prime minister and commander of the armed forces. "Where he is now is the best place for him and where we in the army want him to be, but if the people want him to be president, then he must go."
The second general noted that public expectations are "very high, and the problems are too many and that is a dangerous situation."
El-Sissi last week gave the strongest indication to date that he intends to seek the nation's highest office, telling army cadets that he cannot "turn his back on" popular demand.
He is seen as virtually certain to win, given the wave of public fervor for the military chief since he ousted Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, after massive protests against him.
Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftist politician who finished a strong third in Egypt's 2012 presidential election, and a retired chief of staff of the armed forces, Sami Anan, have already announced their intention to run.
Though he would have to leave the military to run, el-Sissi would become Egypt's fifth president to come from the military since the ouster of the monarchy in the 1950s. The only exception is Morsi, who held office only a year.
On Saturday, interim President Adly Mansour issued a law regulating the upcoming election, which is expected to be held by the end of April. In his comments to the cadets, el-Sissi hinted that he was waiting for the law to be passed before officially announcing his candidacy.
Several government officials said el-Sissi has secured a large aid package from wealthy Gulf Arab nations and allies -- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait -- that would help keep the nation's troubled economy afloat, thus maintaining his popularity while pushing on with painful economic reform, like lifting or restructuring the massive fuel and bread subsidies that account for nearly half of all government spending.
They could not reveal the size of the package. Those three nations have already poured $12 billion into Egypt in an emergency package after Morsi's ouster.
The officials also said el-Sissi plans to create jobs and give the nation something to rally behind with a series of mega-projects, like building homes, improving education and vocational training for the hundreds of thousands of homeless children and construction of a nuclear reactor that would reduce Egypt's reliance on oil.
El-Sissi has already served notice that he has a free economy mentality.
In leaked comments made in closed meetings, he made clear that state subsidies on basic food stuffs and energy -- an enduring legacy from the socialist 1960s days of President Gamal Abdel-Nasser that are a massive drain on the budget -- must entirely go or be restructured.
Fuel subsidies are the biggest drain on the economy, swallowing up nearly $20 billion a year. Economists say that they mostly benefit rich industrialists with energy-dependent businesses.
With tourists and investors staying away because of the country's turmoil, millions are now unemployed. Seemingly endless strikes, sit-ins and street protests have reduced productivity and produced traffic congestion in Cairo that economists say have cost the nation millions of work hours.