By Mohamed Ayyad and Mostafa Fahmy
Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman is in discussions with the presidency and the Council of Ministers to hold a global economic conference in Sharm El-Sheikh next May, similar to the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) last March, to attract direct investments.
The board of directors of the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) was formed and will hold its first meeting Tuesday, with 70% being private sector representatives.
Salman said the issuance of dollar bonds, which was set to be to issued for about $1.5bn in December, has been postponed indefinitely. The government is currently looking for alternatives, such as subtracting from revenues of the “Beit Alwatan” project that the government has put forward for Egyptians abroad.
“International arbitration cases are very complex and can only be discussed once the arbitration is complete,” Salman said during a conference Sunday to discuss the results of ministry’s work in the past fiscal year (FY) 2014/2015 and its achievements of the first quarter of the current FY
In terms of the coordinating committee between fiscal and monetary policies, Salman said the government is reconsidering public expenditure on the budget to reduce the deficit. “Egypt is an open market state and imports will not be banned,” he said. “A new set of quality standards for imports will be issued but we cannot ban it because it needs to maintain the investment climate.”
Egypt proposed a number of projects in various sectors without feasibility studies so far, and Saudi Arabia is interested in the housing, tourism, energy, and agriculture sectors, he said. “The due diligence audit of the projects is underway to finalise permits for their lands to establish a company to implement the investments that have been agreed,” he said.
The minister said he prepared a work plan for his ministry that will be presented to the parliament. He said the plan includes attracting $10bn worth of investments during this fiscal year and increase the number of branches of GAFI to facilitate investment.
He has submitted a request to the Accountability State Authority to review the financial statements of the governmental companies four times a year instead of once to curb corruption, if present.
Chairman of GAFI Alaa Omar said the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA) reached a final agreement to offer their lands through the Ministry of Investment after completing the pricing process.
Omar has yet to meet with representatives of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) as their lands are not ready and their permits have not been finalised.
Salman said GAFI will be the only entity to offer lands for investments on behalf of the government’s different bodies. The recent amendments to the investment law are in force since they have been approved by the cabinet in the presence of Minister of Industry and the remaining cabinet members.
According to Salman, Egypt attracted about $6.4bn worth of foreign direct investment during the last FY compared to a target of $8bn in the same period. He attributed the difference to the challenges the Egyptian economy has been facing recently, compounded by the slowdown of the international economy.
The Ministry on Investment received two Russian offers to develop the Iron and Steel Company and raise its production capacity to 1.2m tonnes per year compared to a current capacity of 300,000 tonnes. He said the winning offer will be announced within days.
Companies of the Ministry of Investment have achieved a revenue growth of 147% in 2015, according to Salman. Eight memoranda of understanding that were signed during the Sharm El-Sheikh summit were converted into contracts, chiefly in the fields of housing, investment, and tourism.
“Established companies had a total capital of EGP 18bn at the end of the last fiscal year,” he said. “The number of new companies increased after the summit in March.”
The government targets establishing 12,000 new companies during the ongoing fiscal year. “Some 1,000 new companies will be established every month.”
With regards to the ministry’s Arbitration Committee, Salman said it solved 107 out of 114 arbitration cases since August 2015.
Spokespersons of all ministry bodies will be activated, especially business companies to improve communication with the media. Salman said 10 new minister’s deputies have been selected through a test to manage investment-related files during the upcoming phase. “Deputies have already begun their work tasks,” he emphasised.
He implemented an urgent administrative reform plan in the ministry by appointing a number of officials to heads and directors of authorities.
“An internal Audit Department was established within GAFI to revise all procedures related to the establishment of companies and services provided to investors,” he said, noting his intention to follow the same steps at the ministry’s holding companies.