Egyptian economy picture is not dim
Egypt, Economics, 5/10/2000
In a three-hour panel meeting with Middle East News Agency (MENA) staff, Gamal Mubarak, National Democratic Party General Secretariat member, reflected on current status of Egyptian economy against the backdrop of a highly competitive world economy.
"World economy is heating for complete liberalization and free trade and Egypt is following suit," Gamal Mubarak said.
Gamal Mubarak laid special focus on the home situation and future challenges facing Egypt.
He stressed the importance of tackling new world changes as a closely-linked community for every Egyptian should lay a role in helping Egypt overcome challenges and move smoothly to the new era of high technology and economic progress.
The main concern at the home front is the economic reform process and its continuation, while dealing effectively with challenges facing the country.
"Not only Egypt but the whole world is seeking economic reform," he said, noting that Egypt's role in the next era is no less important than its acknowledged historical one.
"Reform should be based on transparent economic institutions, strong and efficient institutions capable of dealing with the outside world," he said.
Gamal Mubarak also referred to the need to promote human force through developing education. He stressed the need for drawing a short-term program for upgrading education in no more than three or four years.
"Following the stage of economic reforms adopted in the mid 80s, Egypt started to become more open and intermingled with the world economy, a move which requires adopting further measures to ensure transparency and accountability," Gamal Mubarak told the three-hour gathering.
"Accordingly, the stock exchange should operate in accordance with the internationally agreed upon standards of transparency in order to demonstrate its effectiveness and attract further investments to extend the market's activities," he added.
On the impact of the rapid world changes on the Egyptian economy, Gamal Mubarak said that we all should admit that the country's economy made a big leap during the 90s as more than 50 per cent of Egypt's debts were written off in the wake of the Gulf War, a matter which has consolidated the economy.
Reiterating that the economy's conditions are satisfactory and promising, he said that the government has no intentions now to increase its indebtedness. "Egypt's total debts now hit $28 billion while the debt service amounts to between 9 and 10 per cent, a move which could allow the country to get new loans.
"However, Cairo has no plans to resort to such option thanks to the increased capital flows in the form of shares, securities and bonds," he added.
Regarding the recently raised liquidity problem, Gamal Mubarak said that the problem started with the economic turbulence which took place in Asia in addition to the Luxor attack and the decrease of oil price, all of which together contributed to the crisis.
"During the coming three or four years, strenuous efforts should be exerted to make progress in developing human resources," Gamal Mubarak further added.
On linking developing human resources to technology transfer, he said that the latter issue had occupied a major part of the last visit paid by President Hosni Mubarak to the US.
"As Egypt's exports are still limited, efforts should be exerted to give further attention to the exports' components among which are the technological one," he added.
"Information technology has now become a key component in the Egyptian exports, a move which has recently forced Egypt to form a specialized ministry," he expounded.
"Training new graduates is greatly inter-related with the process of technology transfer," he added.
Accordingly, the first computer training program for the new graduates was formed by the Future foundation, a non-governmental organization headed by Gamal Mubarak. Other training programs for governmental sectors are likely to take place in the near future," he said.
"In cooperation with some US universities, about 600 university graduates will be included in the coming three month program," he added, noting that next programs will cover between 1000 and 2000 graduates.
"Of the US investments channeled to Egypt, a key part is now devoted to long-term investments in technological training," he said.
He also referred to the agreements recently clinched with US firms to help Egypt in the fields of technology transfer and enhancing exports and marketing. "We should be assisted in training the Egyptian cadres to fulfill the country's ambitions," Gamal Mubarak expounded.
Gamal Mubarak called for expanding political participation mainly by youths who represent more than half of the society. "Everyone should participate and play a role in accordance with his own wish and tendency," he added.
He pointed out that one of the main challenges facing Egypt is realizing peace in the Middle East, referring to the Egyptian pioneer role in the peacemaking which should be maintained.
He noted that parties concerned may differ but most are convinced that peace should prevail and sooner or later peace will be achieved.
"Consequently Egypt should consider its role in the post-peace period," he said.
"The world is fast moving ahead and undergoing many changes and Egypt needs to merge with the outside world, it should deal realistically with the other countries as inter-action is a must," Gamal Mubarak told MENA staff.
"To hesitate in opening up to the outside world stems from lack of confidence in the ability to match advanced countries, but to remain hesitant means to lose the competitive edge, so Egypt has to interact with the outside world," he added.
Turning to the Egyptian-American Presidents Council, its Spokesman Gamal Mubarak said it was formed in 1995 to enhance partnership on the government and private levels between the two countries.
"Its 30 members, 15 on each side, examine and exchange views on trade, technology from the government and private perspectives. It is not an executive body and has a special interest in information technology training," he added.
"Egypt focuses on the promotion of information technology and this is closely linked to the human force," he said.
"Towards this end, a non-governmental society was formed to provide computer and English courses for university graduates," he added.
"Its present aim is to train 1,000 over a three-month period,Well trained and competent cadres are necessary for the coming phase, it is a great challenge and should be the focus of the next three years," he said.
"Increasing exports is the hope for the promotion of the society," he added, Terming the low level of Egypt's exports in general as a "chronic problem". Aside from petroleum, Egypt imports by $16 billion and exports by $ 5 billion", he said.
"The Presidents Council, has started to look into the field of agriculture and information technology," he added.
"Egypt seeks more than preferential treatment from the US, it seeks a free trade agreement," Gamal Mubarak said.
To reach this agreement with the US, it needs two to three years of negotiations and requires from Egypt that it carries out major domestic changes and reform," he stressed.
"The US and China negotiate the issue of preferential treatment that is renewed on an annual basis as a form of political pressure, but Egypt already enjoys preferential treatment, said Gamal Mubarak.
"Egypt is not under any US pressure when it comes to regional cooperation in the transfer of technology," he said.
"Neither is the American annual aid to Egypt a form of pressure," he added.
"The aid represents only 2.5 - 3 per cent of Egypt's GDP," he said.
"Egypt is important to the US at both the political and economic levels and the Americans are interested in having a good relationship with Egypt," he added.
Gamal Mubarak said the press and media play a vital and central role in the society's development and rehabilitation process, but if this role is only negative it could obstruct rather than boost this course.
"The media must be very well aware of the importance and vitality of its role in keeping abreast with the development of the society, it shoulders a great responsibility," he added.
"If this sector fails to exercise the right level of awareness, the society will not be able to attain the national goals it has set for the next three or four years," he said.
"This key sector should focus more deeply on reform, development and interaction with the outside world Criticism should exist but not merely the negative aspect of it," he added. He called for transparency in conveying information.
"The press should comprehend the economic situation and transmit a clear and objective picture of the economic reform process," he said.
"Failure to do this could have a negative effect on Egypt's economic sector even if done inadvertently," he said.
"The press and media should be developed in order that the community may also develop," he noted. Responding to a question, Gamal Mubarak said the issue of his candidacy to the People's Assembly is premature.
Asked why he joined the National Democratic Party (NDP), he said he believed in many ideas and aspects of the Party's ideology. "What is needed is to activate and energize the Party members and their voters all over the country to enrich the political life in Egypt and the effectiveness of the Party," he added.
"Candidates must be fair, serious, honest and reputable," he said, adding that in the end, elections in Egypt are clean-rather than party-oriented.
Again, he stressed these key words : transparency and accountability.
He voiced hope that dialogue be the main characteristic of the coming parliamentary elections and that they witness what he termed as an intellectual conflict for the benefit of the public interest.
On the changes introduced to the General Secretariat of the NDP, he said ten out of the 22 members were changed, namely 40 per cent, which is a positive change to enhance political life in Egypt in general.
"They meet regularly on a monthly basis as part of an active process," he added.
On reports on his membership in Al-Mostaqbal (Future) Party, Gamal Mubarak said they were totally groundless.
He said he believed that the Party existed, but implying that Gamal Mubarak is part of it is totally void of truth.
"Regardless of what people say, this is not true," he added.
Asked over his political ambitions, he said he did not speak to anyone over this issue and has not personally reached a decision in this respect. He said he is trying to work in any field to which he can contribute on the public arena, economically, socially or politically, an Egyptian statement said.
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