By: Ibrahim al-Masry
Kamal Abu Eita, Minister of Manpower and Emigration stated that basic services need to be provided in order to encourage economic growth and benefit the lower classes at a recent conference held for Egyptians living abroad, under the title of “Egypt in the heart” under the auspices of President Adly Mansour.
The conference was attended by Egypt’s ministers of Industry and Foreign Trade, Communications and Information Technology, Agriculture, Supply and Internal Trade, Culture, Local Development, Housing Utilities and Urban Communities, Administrative Development and Civilian Aviation.
In the conference’s opening statement, Eita, on behalf of Prime Minister Hizam ElBeblawi, discussed the need for the government to provide economic and social rights to citizens, in particular that related to health services, education and housing.
He said that there was a great deal of optimism regarding the potential to rebuild Egypt’s economy despite negative economic indicators and “threats made by foreign nations” to cut off assistance. He stated that development was not fuelled through economic aid, and that Egypt had what it took in order to prosper and persevere in the face of new challenges.
He stated that monetary transfers made by Egyptians living abroad totalled $19bn. Total savings of Egyptians living abroad approached EGP 1.2tn, he said, of which only 45% was being used, spent and invested. He added that these numbers are separate from unofficial and indirect savings accrued by companies and institutions. Such numbers were important he said, keeping in mind that Egyptian factories are operating between 20% to 40% of total production capacity, with an estimated 50% of the country’s economic potential going unused.
Eita added that in order to implement a successful economic development package, Egypt would need to become self-sufficient.
Abdul Aziz Fadel, Minister of Civil Aviation, said that Egypt Air had suffered considerable losses as a result of recent decreases in tourism, saying despite this he sought to increase the size of the company’s fleet to include 150 aircraft by 2020, and 200 by 2050. He also stated that he hoped to increase the capacity of Egypt’s airports to accommodate 35 million passengers, in addition to developing the Cairo airport’s second passenger reception building. All this would be in addition to the establishment of an “Airport city” located on 10m meters of land surrounding the airport, which would include hotels and commercial properties, and would be implemented over a period of 10 years at a cost of EGP 70bn.
Adel Labib, Minister of Local Development, stated that Egypt would soon set to witness large increases in investment as a result of the launching of a series of new development projects, which he expected would help create new job opportunities. It would be essential, he said, for Egyptians living abroad to contribute.
Mohamed Abu Shady, Minister of Supply and Internal Trade, called on Egyptians living abroad to aid the government in helping to develop and promote the flow of foreign trade between Egypt and the outside world, in addition to working to strengthen the country’s supply goods sector.
Atef Helmy, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, stated that he expected growth in his sector to increase to 10% this year, as opposed to previous estimates of 6%. This, he said, would help increase Egypt’s overall GDP growth rates from 2.3% to 4.3%, in addition to creating 500,000 new job opportunities. He hoped to see growth rates in the sector eventually reach 20%, leading to overall GDP increases of 6%.
He stated that his ministry was working to create two new websites to network and communicate with Egyptians living in the United States, in addition to those who have scientific experience in innovation. The websites would be created according to agreements reached with the Minister of Scientific Research.
Ibrahim Mahlab, the minister of housing, stated that a programme to construct one million new housing units at a cost of EGP 100bn would help to alleviate the country’s housing crisis, and would be sold at production cost. He said there were plans to construct 6,000 units in 6th of October city on 42 square meters of land “to satisfy the immediate needs of low income families.” Due to the expectation for demand for such units to increase in the coming months, lotteries are planned to be held to auction off the rates for additional sales, he added.
He stated that the ministry would put forth additional non-profit projects to help meet the housing needs of Egypt’s low-income citizens. Profits reaped from units sold to higher income brackets would be used to fund the construction of additional housing for low-income citizens. He stated that there existed wide swaths of unused land on which to construct such units, saying that the difficulty lay in the process of constructing facilities on such land.
Hani Mahmoud, Minister of State for Administrative Development, stated that the two most important issues currently facing his office had to do with preparing for new elections and holding a referendum on the country’s new constitution, in addition to developing the country’s subsidies programme in a way that made sure that such funds were only sent to and used by those to whom they were initially allocated. Fighting corruption and working to improve Egypt’s bureaucracy and administrative system were also of utmost importance, he said.
Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade, stated that monetary transfers made by Egyptians over the last two years were the most important source of funds used to prop up the country’s payments budget. Such transfers totalled $18bn yearly, a number expected to increase to $20bn this year. Such transfers have helped to preserve the value of the Egyptian pound and save it from further devaluation and decline.
He stated that the ministry sought to bring about social justice, and help attract investment by opening up new lands for the construction of industrial facilities, in cooperation with the ministries of Finance in addition to Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities. He stated that 600 new plots of land would soon be made available for investment in the 10th of Ramadan city, in addition to 1,200 in other cities, adding that industrial zones were in the process of being prepared to attract new small and mid-sized investment. Such investment projects he said would require the cooperation of those Egyptians living abroad.
Osama Salih, Minister of Investment, stated that the country’s improved security situation would reflect positively on investment, pointing to the government’s programme to implement the army’s roadmap, which they hope will help Egypt emerge from its transitional period better prepared and equipped to face the challenges currently plaguing the country, which include a 14% budget deficit, one of the highest rates seen throughout the world. Addressing such a deficit would require balancing out the country’s revenue intake with rates of spending, he said.
He stated that he intended over the coming year to work to decrease the deficit to 9%. He pointed out however that Egypt’s current economic growth rate was only 2.2%, a number which matched that of the country’s yearly population growth, saying that such statistics were “not encouraging.”
Hassan Mowsi, the conference’s representative for Egyptians living abroad, stated that expatriates have been at the forefront of the country’s most recent revolution, and supported the army wholeheartedly, trusting that it express the hopes and ambitions of the Egyptian people. He called on Egypt’s government to put forth a clear foreign policy, and for Egyptians living abroad to be represented in the 50 member committee tasked with drafting the constitution. He further called on Egyptians living abroad to be included in negotiations between ministries and various government agencies, adding that any “foreign directive which sought to impose itself upon Egypt should be rejected.”