CAIRO, 27th July, 2015 (WAM) -- Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State, and Head of the UAE/Egypt Liaison Office, has said that the UAE?s support for Egypt is firmly rooted in the conviction that Egypt?s stability and prosperity is stability and prosperity for the region and the world.
In an interview with the Egyptian daily publication, Al Masry Al Yawm, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, discussed various topics including the UAE?s strong ties with Egypt, Egypt?s economic sustainability, the Egyptian Economic Development Conference, the importance of private sector investment, the global fight against extremism, and the UAE?s unique model for social development in Egypt. Speaking about the UAE and Saudi Arabia's economic and political support to Egypt particularly following the Egypt Economic Development Conference, Dr. Al Jaber said, "The UAE?s support for Egypt is firmly rooted in the conviction that Egypt?s stability and prosperity is stability and prosperity for the region and the world. It is also a reflection of the very close relationship between the two countries that was set over 40 years ago by our founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and has been further enhanced by our leadership. Over the years, Egypt and the UAE have embarked on various partnerships, exchanging knowledge and expertise while strengthening our bilateral ties." Dr. Al Jaber said that the period of instability in Egypt, from 2010 to 2013, had adversely impacted its economy and society, and that based on their decades long relationship, it was only natural that the UAE stood by Egypt to help restore the country to its rightful place, as the political, economic and social spinal cord of the region. "As such, and in order to support Egypt as swiftly and effectively as possible, the UAE leadership initiated a unique model of assistance, establishing a UAE Egypt Liaison office with experts from Egypt and the UAE, " he said. "Working intensively with our Egyptian partners, the office identified the key priorities on which to focus a social development programme that spanned the critical sectors of energy, housing, food security, education, healthcare and transportation. At the same time, the office also worked closely with Egyptian counterparts on a medium term economic recovery plan that identified structural reforms to stimulate the flow of foreign investments to the Egyptian market," Al Jaber explained.
The minister said that to date, UAE's social development projects alone have created 900,000 jobs and positively impacted the lives of 10 million Egyptians.
When asked about his opinion on what has been accomplished economically in Egypt since 30 June 2013 and especially in the past year, Dr. Al Jaber told the publication that he believes that Egypt has witnessed a positive change in its economic performance. "Some 5.6% growth was recorded in the first half of financial year 2014-2015 (July-March) compared to 1.2% in the same period of last year. Tax returns increased by 35 billion Egyptian pounds in the first half of financial year 2014-2015 amounting to 204.9 billion pounds - an increase of 21% when compared to the previous year. Foreign investments in Egypt also rose to US$1.8 billion in the first quarter of financial year 2014-2015 - a 50% increase by comparison to the first quarter of the preceding year," he said.
Additionally, he said, the big three credit rating agencies have raised Egypt?s rating and positively revised their outlooks. "In October 2014, Moody?s revised their outlook on Egypt to stable and in April 2015 upgraded Egypt to B3. In December 2014 Fitch upgraded Egypt?s credit rating to B with a stable outlook, and in May 2015, Standard and Poor?s raised its outlook for Egypt to positive from stable," said Al Jaber.
The minister noted the International Monetary Fund's praise for Egypt?s economic reforms, citing the conclusion of the IMF?s Article IV mission to Egypt, on November 2014, when Mission Chief Chris Jarvis stated that "policies implemented so far, along with a return of confidence, are starting to produce a turnaround in economic activity and investment." Al Jaber also pointed out examples of Egypt's development progress in building 1,600 kilometres of new roads last year as part of a plan to create a road network of 3,200 kilometres across different parts of the country, and the installation of a 3.6 GW new power capacity as part of a plan to increase Egypt?s power capacity by fifty percent in the coming years.
Addressing the Suez Canal project and its future development expectations, Al Jaber said, "I am proud that a UAE company, the National Marine Dredging Company (NMDC) was involved in this project. The NMDC founded and led the ?Challenge Consortium? including the Dutch and Belgium firms Boskalis, Van Oord and Jan De Nul, ? that, in turn was able to deliver the necessary dredging in record time. I was able to visit the project site more than once in this past year and I have been impressed by the great progress and tireless efforts of all those involved including the Suez Canal Authority, the Egyptian Armed Forces and the engineers and workers on site. This achievement validates the ability of the Egyptian people to stand in the face of adversity with great resolve, determination and success.
The minister said that he looks forward to the opening of the new Suez Canal, which he believes will play a significant and essential role in promoting economic activity in Egypt and the region by increasing the capacity of the channel and reducing the waiting time for ships to pass. "We are also looking forward to the development of the Suez Canal Development Zone, which will include ports, industrial parks and logistics hubs that will ensure continued economic growth through attracting foreign and local investments and creating new job opportunities," he added.
When asked about how he was following the negotiations between the government and businessman Mohamed Alabbar regarding the new administrative capital, and whether there was a mediation from the UAE Government in this regard, Al Jaber noted that it is important to distinguish between private sector investments in Egypt, such as the Capital City Partners and the efforts exerted by the UAE/Egypt liaison office, which, he said, fall within the purview of intergovernmental cooperation between the two countries.
He explained, "Nonetheless, I have been following the ongoing negotiations between Capital City Partners and the Egyptian government and have noticed some inconsistencies in the reporting. Therefore, I believe it is better to wait for the official statements at the end of the negotiations, which will naturally take some time given the scope and size of the project. We wish this important project much success in achieving the desired objectives for the future of Egypt.
"I do, however have to say that I believe that the global and regional experience, know-how and successful track record of Mr. Al Abaar in the real estate sector speaks for itself. I have no doubt that he will exert every effort to ensure that these negotiations conclude with the best possible interests of both parties in mind. These are large-scale projects that need to be rooted in economic sustainability," he said.
Speaking on whether the UAE has plans to provide more funding to support the Egyptian economy during the new financial year excluding loans and investments, Al Jaber reminded that the relationship between the UAE and Egypt is not based on financial objectives, but is rather a historical relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation.
"The relationship between the UAE and Egypt is not built on loans and numbers, but on mutual respect, cooperation and common interests that benefit the two countries. Based on the synergy established with Egypt that dates back to more than four decades, we are confident this partnership will continue to flourish. What is important at this stage is to intensify the work focused on the revitalisation of the Egyptian economy and development of the legislative system. This will increase growth rates, and allow for new projects to open doors for economic and social prosperity as well as new investments," he said.
Asked whether after several months post the Egypt Economic Development Conference, the Egyptian government has taken the necessary steps for economic reform, Dr. Al Jaber said that he believes that the Egypt Economic Development Conference marked an important milestone in showcasing the Egyptian government?s commitment to implementing measures towards a stronger, more sustainable economy. "The long term plan, as stated by Ibrahim Mahlab, Prime Minister of Egypt, includes fiscal consolidation measures to reduce deficit through a gradual reduction of energy subsidies as well as the introduction of value-added tax, amendments to existing laws, and working on attracting direct investments to crucial sectors, such as transport and power generation.
"In other words, the vision and goals are there, what is now required is an unwavering effort and continued implementation of administrative, financial, legislative and regulatory reforms that will, in turn, contribute to the reduction of bureaucracy," he said.
Speaking about his future predictions, and whether Egypt will need to deal with international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, Al Jaber said, "This is a sovereign decision that is taken solely by the Egyptian government. International monetary institutions are known for their expertise in financial matters. I believe that the economic and legislative reforms initiated by the Egyptian government have begun to show positive results, as demonstrated by Article IV conducted by the International Monetary Fund." Dr. Al Jaber went on to say that the investment climate in Egypt for UAE investors can become more attractive with the help of legislative amendments to simplify procedures and create an integrated experience.
"Private sector investment is a realistic indication of the attractiveness of the investment climate and today, there are over 600 UAE companies functioning in Egypt. The goal now is to increase the attractiveness of the Egyptian market. Furthermore, given the rapid population growth, there is an urgent need to create jobs through expansion and new market growth.
"?Continuous development? is a concept that is widely prevalent in the world of commerce, wherein countries seek to increase their competitiveness in order to attract sustained foreign capital. As part of this priority, it is important to build an attractive environment for investment through a system of laws and to simplify procedures and create an integrated experience that will make Egypt an ideal hub for investors and new projects," he explained.
In regards to terrorism attacks and threats which Egypt has been exposed to, and whether he believes that would affect investment in the country, the minister reiterated the UAE?s clear position in this regard, saying, "We condemn any attempt to destabilise the security and stability of Egypt. The UAE leadership has confirmed its solidarity with the Egyptian government and will stand by its side in the face of extremism and terrorism.
"We, in the UAE, have great confidence in Egypt's ability to overcome challenges and continue to build a bright future for its children," he said.
Al Jaber added that terrorism is a challenge that all nations must address as soon as possible. "In fact, most recently the government of the UAE issued an anti-discrimination and anti-extremism law that aims at curbing hate speech and extremism. It is no longer enough to think of this war in military terms. There is a stronger, more resolute ideological war that feeds the terrorist narrative indirectly through promoting toxic, hateful and exclusive ideologies. This law is a clear demonstration of the UAE?s rejection of the culture of hate and destruction in favor of a culture of forgiveness, peace, collaboration and positive energy, the minister explained.
In conclusion, Dr. Al Jaber confirmed that the UAE government continues to contribute significantly to the infrastructure projects in Egypt, which include a wide-range of projects in various sectors. "The development projects that have been implemented by the UAE/Egypt Liaison Office focus on vital sectors such as energy, housing, food security, education, healthcare and transportation. To date we have been able to deliver 78 fully operational family health clinics in 23 governorates across remote and rural areas, provide 100% of Egypt?s insulin needs through the refurbishment of the vaccination lines, deliver 100 fully equipped schools and finalise the construction of over 50,000 housing units," he said.
"The projects also include the construction of 4 bridges, the provision of 600 public transport busses, the development of 136 wastewater plants, the construction of a 10MW solar power plant in Siwa and a vocational training and placement programme for tens of thousands of Egyptians," added Al Jaber.
As for food security, the minister said, "We have provided the Egyptian government with 100,00 cattle, 50,000 of which will be used for dairy production. We are also constructing 25 wheat and grain silos."
© Copyright Emirates News Agency (WAM) 2015.