A United States business delegation has pledged to support Egypt in its transition to democracy through bolstering investment to create more jobs and promote economic growth.
“We hope that this delegation returns home with a very simple message: Egypt is open for business,” Thomas Nides, head of the US business delegation and the deputy of the secretary of state, stated yesterday after meeting with prime minister Hesham Qandil.
The high-profile business delegation, which includes more than 100 representatives of US companies and notable US government officials, arrived in Cairo Saturday to follow up recent talks between the US and Egyptian governments over US economic assistance to Egypt.
The delegation discussed American economic support to promote Egypt’s transition to democracy with Egyptian officials and business community leaders.
Discussions also included a potential free trade agreement, supporting small and medium sized enterprises and supporting the economic reform programme proposed by the Egyptian government to qualify for the controversial and long-awaited $ 4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan.
Qandil said the economy is plagued by high unemployment rates and spiralling budget deficits but the government is carrying out an economic reform programme that includes rationalising public spending and guaranteeing fiscal discipline to restore confidence in the economy and attract foreign partners.
“American Companies by coming here in such large numbers, are demonstrating their readiness to hear from the Egyptian government what the priorities are for continued growth and job creation,” Lionel Johnson, vice-president of Middle East Affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce, told the Daily News Egypt.
Developing and strengthening the private sector is one of the major themes for the delegation. In the delegation’s view, the private sector should lead any medium or long term economic development plans. “In order for the Egyptian government to close the budget deficit, the private sector needs to grow and the public sector needs to shrink,” Johnson said. He clarified that for the short term, “it’s probably going to be what we have to deal with,” stressing that the private sector should be properly regulated, but not constrained.
According to Johnson, the delegation is preparing a set of policy recommendations for both the Egyptian and the US governments on how to invigorate human development in Egypt.
“Human development and the higher presence of widely shared economic prosperity are going to make the democracy experiment here a success and if that is not done, we’ll be wasting a historic opportunity,” Johnson said.