Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi says that his visit to Westminster this week to meet Prime Minister David Cameron “can serve as a stepping stone towards achieving advancing coordination between the two countries”, especially in the struggle against global extremism and shared political and economic interests. In the following statement written exclusively for this Upper Reach report, President El Sisi also points to the major steps taken by Egypt in returning the country to political and economic stability during his first year in office
Statement by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, November 2015
Egypt has embarked on a new era of political stability and market-led economic growth. After a period of political uncertainty and economic stagnation, Egyptians have resolved to advance democratic transformation with the adoption of our Roadmap to the Future. The first milestone of this roadmap was fulfilled with the passage, through popular vote, of a new constitution that nurtures the values of democracy and human rights. The second milestone was the presidential elections in June 2014. The ongoing parliamentary elections mark the third milestone. While this is not the end of Egypt’s political transition, it is another important step in an ongoing democratic evolution, further demonstrating Egypt’s progress along a stable and certain political trajectory.
On the economic front, the Government has taken majors steps to address macroeconomic imbalances. A sound fiscal consolidation policy and targeted structural reforms have put the country on an inexorable track towards equitable and sustainable economic growth. We aim to balance our growth objectives against our firm commitment to promote social justice. The decision to phase out fuel subsidies and restructure taxation has freed up billions of dollars in the government budget that can now be reinvested in more effective social programmes, especially in the health and education sectors. Such steps have laid out the foundation for future fiscal stability and have ensured the political durability of our economic reforms.
Egypt’s investment climate has developed as a result of a concerted legal and regulatory overhaul. These reforms have restored confidence in our economy. The recent resurgence of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows demonstrates a growing appetite to do business in the Egyptian market, with a dynamic and diversified economic base. This heightened level of investor interest did not happen by itself. It was spurred by the ingenuity and hard work of the Egyptian people. Meanwhile, the government is actively seeking to address our investment partners’ concerns. Hundreds of disputes with foreign investors have been resolved and the remaining cases are underway. We are also committed to settling all outstanding arrears to foreign companies.
The Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC), held in March 2015, was a significant milestone in Egypt’s economic transformation. The conference showcased our bright investment outlook and highlighted a new era of partnership with the private sector and non-traditional actors. Dozens of new agreements worth several billion dollars were announced, providing the framework for future growth and prosperity in Egypt.
At the conference, I laid out a vision for a new Egypt, “Egypt 2030,” that is based on an increase in infrastructure spending. Labour-intensive megaprojects are central to this vision and are geared towards creating jobs, economic growth and a long-term economic transformation provided prosperity for all. The recently inaugurated new Suez Canal, and the associated economic development along the canal corridor currently underway, will act as a vital engine of Egypt’s growth and transform the area into a logistical hub that utilises its unique geographic advantages.
“Egypt 2030” is deeply rooted in the realities of the country’s untapped and growing human potential, where the youth make up a significant portion of the Egyptian population. Our vision comprises economic, social and cultural dimensions in order to embrace Egypt’s youth and maximise their capabilities, innovative zeal and industriousness. We intend to create a new, young, knowledge-based and scientific society, armed with high levels of education and training to compete successfully in an integrated global economic landscape. I called on the world at the United Nations General Assembly to launch a new youth initiative called “Hope and Action for a New Direction (HAND)” that is aimed at unleashing the potential of the next generation in building the future that will soon be their own.
Other visible proof points of our economic renewal lie in different key sectors including real estate, transportation, agriculture and energy. All of these sectors serve as a foundation stone upon which our economic growth will be built. There is a major focus on SMEs, which provide enormous opportunities for a large segment of society. We are working with traditional and non-traditional partners to provide new financial and technical tools that will help advance this segment and increase its contribution within our economic landscape.
Egypt’s successful economic transformation is critical to our ongoing political evolution. However, confronting regional security challenges, namely the rising threat of terrorism, is equally critical. We are taking a leading role in combating extremism and the distorted ideology that drives it. The international community is a key partner in this effort, providing critical security, political, and economic support in order to help us advance our resolve in defeating defeat this nefarious phenomenon.
I would like to reaffirm that I hold with high regards the recent remarks made by Prime Minister Cameron on extremism, where he stated “the root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.” I could not agree more. I have said many times that our efforts to defeat the terrorist threat must entail a holistic approach that goes beyond military force to tackle the underlying distorted thinking that fuels it. I have called on Al-Azhar, the eminent Islamic institution, to renew religious discourse and provide a counter-narrative to such extremist ideology by promoting the real values of Islamic moderation and tolerance. I also agree with the Prime Minister’s assertion that “the extremist worldview is the gateway, and violence is the ultimate destination.” It is important to note that there is a continuum that links extremist thinking to violent action. We must address the former if we are to defeat the latter.
My visit to the UK can serve as a stepping-stone towards advancing coordination between the two countries in our common struggle against extremism and its repercussions in the region and the world. I am also keen to work with the British government to build a solid partnership well into the future, on the basis of mutual respect and shared political and economic interests.