CAIRO: The Arab Organization for Industrial Development and Metallurgy met in Egypt on Monday for the second time to discuss the country’s industrial sector in the "post-revolution" stage.
Mohamed Ben Youssef, general director of the organization, along with Ismail El-Nagdi, head of Egypt’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA), discussed the country’s role in helping rebuild Libya as well as expanding Arab investments across Egypt.
"We have a vision to renovate the industrial relationship between Egypt and Libya by focusing on heavy industries, which include steel and cement," El-Nagdi said.
El-Nagdi said there are plans to turn the Egyptian-Libyan borders into a heavy-industry hub.
Boosting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Egypt is also key to developing the economy, officials said.
"Regarding the financing we need to start projects to rebuild the countries of the Arab Spring, we are currently in touch with the World Bank and other global financing institutions," said Ben Youssef.
"A fast cure for improving the economy is by boosting SMEs because they are the key to creating jobs,” he added.
When asked about the possibility of establishing an Arab Bank for Development, Ben Youssef said they are currently studying the idea.
The delegation comes at a time when Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), is visiting Libya along with eight Egyptian ministers to discuss future cooperation.
Despite the drop in foreign direct investments (FDI) this year, El-Nagdi said opportunities for foreign investments in Egypt are "countless."
"There are several energy investment opportunities," said El-Nagdi. "For example, Total, the French gas company, will sit with me on Tuesday to discuss further investments in Egypt."
Officials are also being approached by Japanese carmaker Toyota as well as LG Electronics to expand their businesses.
Egypt saw FDI fall to $440.1 million from July-September from $1.60 billion a year earlier, helping to create a $2.36 billion deficit in the balance of payments versus a surplus of $14.7 million a year earlier, according to Reuters.
On Monday, Egypt asked the International Monetary Fund for $3.2 billion in support as the country’s interim Cabinet seeks to fill a budget gap pushed wider by almost a year of economic turmoil, Reuters reported. The previous army-backed interim government turned down an offer of $3 billion in financial assistance from the IMF last June.
As tourism and foreign reserves tumbled over the past year, government officials previously said Egypt needs to borrow at least $10–12 billion to stimulate the economy.
Foreign reserves fell to $18.1 billion as of December, declining at a rate of about $2 billion a month since the Jan. 25 uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak.
Mahmoud Nasr assistant for financial affairs to Tantawi, announced in December that he sees Egypt’s foreign reserves declining further to $15 billion by the end of January, according to Reuters.
He also said that reserves would eventually hit $10 billion, only allowing the country to pay for two months’ worth of imports.
El-Nagdi said the security situation, which many blame for thwarting foreign investment as well as tourism, is expected to stabilize soon.
As Egypt emerges from its first post-Mubarak parliamentary elections, El-Nagdi said the success of the elections shows that within five to six months, the political situation will also "stabilize."
Egyptian activists and youth movements are calling for mass protests across the country on January 25, the anniversary of the uprising, to demand that the ruling military council swiftly hand over power to a civilian authority.