INTERVIEW: Strong Egyptian economy 'lynchpin of stability in region', says British envoy

Ahram Online , Sunday 15 Mar 2015

British Ambassador John Casson says private investment will be the engine of Egypt's economic and political progress

John Casson
British Ambassador in Egypt John Casson (Photo: Fouad Mansour)

A strong Egyptian economy is the mainstay of democracy and stability in the region, British ambassador to Egypt said on Sunday at an international investment conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Egypt, whose economy has been hammered by four years of political turmoil since the 2011 uprising, hopes that the global gathering conveyed an image of stability and draws back foreign investors scared off by the turmoil.

"If you want to see democracy, security and stability in this region, you have got to have a strong Egyptian economy," British Ambassador John Casson said in an interview with Ahram Online. "If you want to cope with problems of energy, poverty and climate in this region you need Egypt priming."

With British companies having invested $25 billion in Egypt since 2011, Britain's financial support is never going to falter, added Casson.

The ambassador said that the global investor summit, which concludes on Sunday, is a "golden opportunity" for Egypt to show the business opportunities it has for investors as a "huge central economy to the region" and to set "clear reform plan" to create a better investment climate.

Security has been on high alert throughout the three-day forum, attended by heads of state and top executives and government officials from around the globe, including US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The largest deal Egypt has secured at the conference was penned with British energy giant British Petroleum (BP) for a record investment of $12 billion in Egyptian gas fields, believed to be the biggest investment deal in Egypt's history.

The five-year project will provide 5,000 job opportunities in the construction phase, with a production expected to amount to 25 percent of Egypt's current gas production.

Casson said he was delighted that Egypt's Arabian Gulf allies of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates had announced $12 billion worth of investment and central bank deposits on the first day of the gathering, and even happier that only one British company had announced investment of the same amount.

The three oil-rich Gulf states have offered Egypt $23 billion in oil shipments, cash grants and central bank deposits to help shore up its economy over the past 18 months since the 2013 ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

But Casson is of the view that investment is what the country needs for a sustainably stable economy.

"Aid can get you through a year or two, but investment is what transforms and empowers your economy for generations, and that's why we want to make the bridge from aid to investment."

Hailing the idea and the timing of the international summit, the ambassador said private investment would be the "engine" of Egypt's economy on the long term, and the pillar of its political progress, democracy and prosperity.

When asked about impediments holding back foreign investors in Egypt, Casson said he hopes to see a "war on bureaucracy and red tape" as well as a "strong, credible microeconomic plan" to balance the budget. 

On the eve of the conference, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ratified an amended investment law that aims to remove obstacles to domestic and foreign private investments.

Casson also called for the fair treatment of foreign investors and urged healthy economic progress from which all Egyptians can benefit.


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