With the Egypt Economic Development Conference so close at hand, Egyptian government officials are abuzz with excitement. In an effort to manage expectations yet spread optimism and awareness of the strides taken for political, economic, and social reforms, the Egyptian Prime Minister shares why investors should have greater confidence in his country
The Egypt Economic Summit in March will be one of the largest development conferences ever held in Egypt and is expected to bring billions in investment and renew the image of Egypt abroad. What are your expectations on the outcome of this important event?
It is an excellent occasion to launch our policies and reforms. My expectation is to show the resources of the new Egypt and the future of Egypt. I’m convinced that the potential of Egypt has not been discovered. I want the whole world to know that there is political, economic, and administrative reform in Egypt. This reform does not come easy and we don’t have the luxury of time on our side. We are working hard on finishing a new law for investment while also resolving accumulated disputes related to investment. It’s been complicated, but we have created a mechanism to solve and create reasonable change and to find compromises. At the same time, we are looking at other countries and the models they use to attract investment; we are taking the best policies that work for Egypt and implementing them.
We are also reforming the bureaucracy to eliminate and limit corruption through personal contact in a one-stop-shop. We have created a new clean, clear environment with principles and a rule of law. The last milestone in our roadmap to improving the investment environment and perception of Egypt will be the Egypt Economic Development Conference, where we will put Egypt in display.
My expectation during the conference is not that we will sign billions of dollars in contracts, but that we will change the perception of Egypt and prepare the country for a future of growth and prosperity. If investors believe in the country and its leadership, then naturally the investment will flow in, and we are confident that investors will be impressed.
Social inclusion is one of your biggest priorities with many reforms focusing on reducing poverty and unemployment rates. How are you ensuring this conference and the incoming investment, as a result of this conference, will benefit all Egyptians?
We learned a lesson before January 25 when the growth in Egypt had reached 7 percent, but the growth was very isolated; it was not reflected in the life of most Egyptians. No one can deny that more than 25% of our people are suffering from poverty. During our economic reform, we are creating a social safety network. Perhaps this is the most important thing that I’m working on. First of all, we need medical insurance for poor people. We are working on improving the slums and unsafe living areas and we are relocating those people so as to improve their quality of life. We have removed costly subsidies and implemented a smart card for the people who really need the subsidies. This has freed up billions of dollars in the governments budget so that we can now invest in more education and health care programs for those who really need it. We must face real problems. We are not working on creating reports about the challenges that we face, we are working to change the lives of the people and face the real challenges. We want to dilute the pressure on them and find immediate solutions to their problems. This will secure our plans for growth because at the end of the day, people want relief. Another challenge we are addressing is unemployment. We have started some big construction projects, like the Suez Canal project and many others, which is helping to decrease unemployment. Once these projects are completed, they will create thousands of residual jobs through spin off industries.
The Parliamentary elections are expected to be complete before the end of April 2015, which will result in a new cabinet. With this upcoming election looming, how can you ensure investors that political stability will prevail and Egypt will remain on its path of reforms and recovery?
When you have a clear strategy, which is designed to face the real challenges of the country and the people of the country support the strategy, the backbone of the strategies will not change. Any new minister will see that they have an economic problem facing them and the only way to solve it is through direct investments. A new government does not have a lot of choice; they will see that it is the only way. Creating the road for any incoming government was not easy, but we are confident that we’ve fixed it.
The US and Egypt have had a stable relationship and strategic relationship for the last 30 years. There have been occasional ups and downs, but at the und of the day, the two countries are equally important to each other. Ahead of the EEDC what is your message to American investors who are looking at Egypt for opportunities?
First of all, Egypt is a very strategic partner to the USA. When you have had a long-standing strategic relationship as we have with the US, you can withstand any challenges. In regards to business, we have a very active American Chamber of Commerce, who promotes business in Egypt on a regular basis. We are very thankful for the Chamber and for all of the American businesses who have contributed to Egypt’s growth of the years. Most of the American investors have done a great job and are very welcome in Egypt.