US Congress blocked $450 million of economic aid in September. The aid is part of a $1 billion debt relief to assist in the transition to democracy, as promised to Egypt by Obama, stated USAID Mission Director for Egypt, Walter North.
North talks about this issue with Ahram Online among other issues.
What does the Congressional decision to block part of the American aid to Egypt mean and how do you think this story can end?
What happened is the administration presented the proposal to Congress and said we want to spend that money in Egypt. The administration now is very committed to Egypt; we want to work with the government. We want this package to happen, but we need to obviously get the approval of our Congress and we are.
After the Egyptian revolution and the political turmoil in Egypt, has the USAID adopted a new vision in the way it works in Egypt?
Sure, we want to see Egypt succeed; that is the bottom line. Success means jobs for people in the middle term, so we are trying to focus a lot on job creation and the creation of an environment that encourages job creation. We also recognize that Egypt has new democratic institutions, like The Parliament. We would like to help by exposing best practices internationally and in countries like Indonesia, Poland, and our own country.
There have been official reports about entrepreneurship during the last decade and many strategies, but no advancement has been felt. What is your strategy to encourage the creation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs)?
I think there are evidences internationally that smart investment can help to make it better for SMEs. The idea is to make it easy for people to become legal and recognized by the state, making it easier to get a loan as well.
We also have experience with microcredit programs, which reach out to communities by giving loans to impoverished citizens and very small businesses. We have some million lenders now. There is a lot of evidence that you can do something.
Should Egypt be worried of the consequences of a European economic crisis?
All of us are watching the events in Europe unfold with a great deal of interest because all of us whether Egyptian or American are living in a connected world. In other words, what happens there could affect everywhere. However, I am very hopeful that the Europe will continue to take steps to address the issue and can avoid negative consequences.