August 26, 2019

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  • Euromoney debates restarting investment in Egypt

    Panelists at the Euromoney conference Tuesday debate Egypt's economic challenges.

    BY LEYLA DOSS

    Cairo A mixed rhetoric about the present and future of Egypt’s economy dominated  the two-day Euromoney Conference launched in Cairo Tuesday, which focused on restarting Egypt’s economy.

    Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said that the government aims to create 700,000 new jobs in the next five years and to increase small and medium investment projects by 30 percent.

    “We have also attempted to improve the political climate through better ties with African countries, like Sudan, South Africa, Algeria, as well as South East Asia, the Arab world, and the Muslim world. We want Egypt to be the Mecca for investors,” he said.

    “We are aiming to have mega projects in the Suez Canal, Sinai, North West Egypt, and the South of Egypt.”

    In September alone, he added, 703 new companies were established.

    Minister of Investment Osama Saleh supplemented Qandil’s momentum with claims that Egypt will nurture a new public-private relationship economy, comprising small and medium enterprises and mega projects.

    “We aim to set up 128 small projects across all provinces in manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, mining, logistics and ICT,” said Saleh, adding that 14 public-private partnership projects in waste, water treatment, manufacturing, railway and roads are in the pipeline.

    He said that the two mega urban development in Port Said and the Suez Canal will attract Foreign Direct Investments and will be executed by foreign companies.

    Chairman of Citadel Capital Ahmed Heikal however criticized Egypt’s poor energy and water policies.

    “If we keep energy prices the way they are, there will be a huge gap between local and global prices. This causes smuggling across borders and other issues, including gasoline, and electricity shortages,” he said.

    Heikal advocated the gradual removal of fuel subsidies. “With issues of inflation and unemployment, we cannot suddenly change local fuel prices to global prices. We need to have cash direct subsidies to consumers, rather than producers.”

    On a more positive note, Heikal hailed the investment of $4 billion in the field of energy since January 25, 2011.

    On his part presidential advisor Dr. Hussein El-Kazzaz, who is involved in the Freedom and Justice Party’s El-Nahda Project, highlighted the current administration’s emphasis on “development integration.”

    “Development integration is economic development on the mega level, which must take place in parallel with political, social and cultural transformations,” said El-Kazzaz.

    “The population of Egypt is 1.2 percent of the world population, yet its GDP is less than 0.33 percent of global GDP,”said El-Kazzaz. “This is a political failure.”

    Part of this project, he said, is integrating the informal sector into the formal sector, promoting talent and improved urban planning. “Twenty percent of talent in Egypt is deprived because it is either not cultivated or is lost in the brain drain.”

    El-Nahda Project will complete its first phase by early January of next year, he said.

    Chairman of the National Bank of Egypt (NBE) Tarek Amr emphasized the the long term effects of corruption in the banking sector during the 1970s and 1980s which has tainted their reputation until today.

    “Starting 2003 the NBE attempted to regain its credibility by communicating to the public through the media in order to change public perceptions.”

    He said that the banking sector’s profits increased by 50 percent this year indicating huge potential and opportunities.

    Chairman of Commercial International Bank (CIB) Hisham Ezz El-Arab was less upbeat, stressing that “these are difficult times for banks, for youth, for everyone.”

    “Ninety percent of last year’s graduates have no jobs. This is unfortunate because it is not fueling the talent pool,” he said.

    In its reform strategy since 2008, CIB changed its business model from a complicated multi-tasked model to an assembly line model. This increased headcounts by 20 to 30 percent, he said.

    “As a result, services improved, investment increased and there was a rise in transparency.”

     

     

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