Second phase of two year project launches Monday
CAIRO: The International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Ministry of Housing (MOH) are set to sign a cooperation agreement Monday for the second phase of IFC s Alexandria-based project to simplify the acquisition of business licenses and building permits for businesses and homeowners.
IFC launched the $1 million project in late 2005, working with the Ministry of Investment and the Alexandria Governorate to reduce the bureaucracy required to conduct business in Alexandria as a prototype. The project is now focused on reducing the number of authorities and the costs associated with obtaining building permits for investors and prospective homeowners, says IFC Project Officer Sherif Hamdy.
In September, 2006 IFC s annual Ease of Doing Business report ranked Egypt among the bottom 10 of 175 countries and last in the MENA region after rating 10 areas of doing business in each economy under study, including starting a business, obtaining licenses, employing workers and obtaining credit.
The report came under tough criticism from the government for months but was followed by others confirming most of its findings such as January s Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Report, ranking Egypt 127 out of 161 countries in categories ranging from fiscal freedom to freedom from corruption.
Despite the government s objections to the reports, Hamdy says the government has shown more willingness to cooperate on further reforms to improve its image.
If you re looking to build and you find out about all the permits you re required to obtain and the people you have to deal with to obtain legal approval and registration, you re simply not going to register your building. And that is what is happening now, Hamdy told The Daily Star Egypt.
Obtaining building permits can range from three months for new developments to almost two years for in-city cites. MOH estimates more than 80 percent of properties remain unregistered.
Earlier this month, Minister of Housing Ahmed El Maghrabi announced the final draft of the new unified construction law is now being prepared for presentation to the People s Assembly by the end of March.
The long-awaited legislation, expected to cut down on burdensome procedures required for building construction, will solve 85 percent of problems facing investors, El Maghrabi said. MOH is yet to release details of its amendments to the old law, but has hinted reforms will fall inline with measures already taken by other ministries to reduce time and money required to obtain registration, building permits and clearances, and utilities.
Hamdy says IFC will work closely with MOH once the law is ratified for implementation according to the best international practices.
We re not coming up with new ways of solving these problems, Hamdy says. We re looking at what other countries similar to Egypt have done and implementing the appropriate practices for the local market.
IFC s Middle East division provides funding and technical assistance services to boost private sector involvement in 19 countries stretching from Morocco to Pakistan. In 2005, IFC invested $650 million in 26,000 businesses across the region out of $6.5 billion in total global investment.