‘Forget about aid’ says Egypt’s PM, as country courts investment

Ibrahim Mahlab says Egypt seeks cooperation on investment rather than cash handouts in shoring up its struggling economy

Ben Flanagan
Ben Flanagan - Al Arabiya News - Dubai
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Egypt seeks cooperation on investments rather than cash handouts in its effort to improve the faltering economy, according to interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab.

The country was pledged $12 billion in loans and donations from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait shortly after the army overthrew former president Mohammad Mursi in July.

But as Egypt’s government seeks to shore up its economy amid crippling subsidies, Mahlab said negotiating further aid packages had moved down the agenda.

“Forget about aid, we are going for a kind of cooperation; this is what we are looking for – cooperation,” he said.

Economic reforms are underway to help facilitate further investment into Egypt, he added. “We are now creating a very good… environment to attract investments,” Mahlab said.

Egypt faces an uncertain summer, when electricity demand is set to skyrocket along with the rising temperature. The country’s economy is weighed down by costly fuel subsidies and depleting foreign reserves.

While Mahlab said that economic reform was underway, he drew short of pledging an end to subsidies, which some including the International Monetary Fund have argued is the best way forward.

“We are looking for a complete economic reform… to launch an umbrella to protect the poorest,” he said. “Subsidization should go to the poorest people not to the richest.”

Aside from the aid packages pledged by wealthy Gulf Arab states, there have been signs of greater business links with Egypt.

In March it was announced that the UAE construction firm Arabtec had agreed a massive $40 billion deal with the Egyptian army to build one million homes in Egypt.

Mahlab said there had been progress on this deal, adding that studies on the proposed project are underway.

He was speaking at the Arab Media Forum in Dubai, which formally opened earlier on Tuesday.

Mahlab underlined the media’s importance in creating “hope” during difficult times, as well as distributing “moral messages”.

“The future will not be built by economic power alone,” he said.

He acknowledged the role of social media in Egypt’s 2011 revolution that overthrew former president Hosni Mubarak.

But Mahlab sees a place for printed media as well as the abundance of new channels and what he called the “endless streams of YouTube videos.”

He said: “Electronic media is now among the central aspects of daily life in the modern age… This does not make the printed media any less relevant.”

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