Minister: Arab investments in Egypt reach $50 billion

A two-day conference was held in Cairo this week to lure Gulf investors

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Arab investments in Egypt to date have reached $50 billion, an Egyptian minister said on Thursday, adding that the government is working to improve its investment climate to attract businesspeople.

Egyptian Investment Minister Osama Saleh added that foreign, non-Arab investments equal $47 billion, as quoted by Ahram Online.

Saleh made the remarks at the end of a two-day forum held north of Cairo, which hosted businesspeople and representatives from several Gulf states in a bid to boost investment in Egypt’s ailing economy.

The forum resulted in Gulf investors committing to launch a total of 66 new projects in Egypt, according to state news agency MENA.

Gulf Arab governments expressed the will to pour billions of dollars into ally Egypt to prop up its economy, but remain hesitant due to the country’s unstable political condition.

Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates came to Egypt's aid after the ouster of former Islamist President Mohammad Mursi in July, following mass protests against his rule.

Battered economy

The oil-producing states, deeply distrustful of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, pledged over $12 billion to help an economy that has been battered by political upheaval since a popular uprising toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

At the two-day form this week, officials promised to pay back some of the $6 billion Egypt owes foreign oil firms, reform legislation that hurts investors, and reduce the country's cumbersome bureaucracy.

Saleh said that Egyptian economic and business legislation will go through a phase of adjustments to attract more investments, in statements quoted by Ahram Online.

"The Gulf members at the conference stated that they face investment troubles in more than 17 countries worldwide, which means that Egypt is not the only state with foreign investment difficulties," Saleh said.

For private Gulf Arab investors, whose businesses in Egypt faced legal challenges after Mubarak's overthrow, a return will only come with guarantees that their money will be safe.

"We really need to overcome these uncertainties to make meaningful investment in Egypt. I am more optimistic but cautious ... They have to act quickly," said Omar al-Futtaim, CEO and Vice Chairman of al-Futtaim Real Estate of the United Arab Emirates.

"To attract big investment, it's a need [to have] an attractive environment,... a lot of transparency, especially when it comes to law and regulation, and enforcement of agreements."

(With Reuters)

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