Egypt PM: October conference will chart way out of economic crisis

Madbouly says government will adopt roadmap produced by meeting

Egyptian Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. AFP
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A three-day conference slated to start in Egypt this month is expected to produce a roadmap for the country to weather its current economic crisis, caused largely by the Russia-Ukraine war, Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said on Wednesday.

Mr Madbouly said the October 23-25 meeting will focus on finding ways to “increase the competitiveness and flexibility” of the economy, including further empowerment of the private sector.

“We, as a government, are open to ideas and views designed to bolster the private sector’s role in all activities,” he said.

Mr Madbouly said the roadmap produced by the conference would be acted on by President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and the government.

He said that when needed, draft legislation enacting new policies agreed on at the conference would be sent to Parliament to be turned into law.

Up to 500 experts, industry captains, leaders of professional associations, academics and representatives of relevant international organisations will take part in the conference’s discussions, Mr Madbouly said.

They will be joined by the heads of parliamentary committees, Cabinet ministers and representatives of foreign embassies and political parties.

An Egyptian worker arranges bread at a bakery in Cairo, Egypt. EPA

Mr El Sisi called for the conference last month in response to the deepening economic woes in which the most populous Arab nation found itself after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In April, two months after the invasion, he called for a national dialogue to chart the country’s political future.

The conference and the dialogue, which is in the preparatory stage, indicate a shift to allowing a level of inclusion in decisions as economists and pro-government commentators are painting a bleak picture of the economy in the short and medium terms.

That inclusion has emboldened independent economists and commentators in the country of 104 million people to question, albeit cautiously, government’s policies, particularly its spending priorities.

The criticism has drawn spirited defence from Mr El Sisi on recent occasions in which he explained the logic behind the mega, multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects on which his government has embarked since he took office in 2014.

These include building 12 new cities, state-of-the-art power stations, thousands of kilometres of new roads and cutting-edge transport modes using clean energy.

An Egyptian counts pound notes at foreign exchange bureau in Cairo, Egypt. EPA

Egypt was badly hit by the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war when it was slowly recovering from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic

It has had its import bill soar, inflation reaching double digits and a dollar crunch.

It was forced to devalue its currency by about 14 per cent in March, but the currency has since lost more of its value to trade this week at 19.6 to the dollar.

Egypt is also negotiating with the IMF to secure financial assistance as part of an economic restructuring programme that is likely to include more flexibility in its foreign exchange system.

“We and the rest of the world hadn’t seen a crisis of this magnitude since World War II,” Mr Madbouly said.

Updated: October 06, 2022, 4:52 AM