File Photo: Egypt's trade and industry minister Amr Nassar (Photo: Al-Ahram)
After a brief meeting with parliament’s Industrial Committee Sunday morning, Minister of Trade and Industry Amr Nassar decided to withdraw following a verbal clash with parliament’s Deputy Speaker Soliman Wahdan.
Nassar, who was addressing the meeting on market monopolies and problems facing industrial investors, refused to answer a question asked by Wahdan on the proliferation of private monopolies of trademarks in Egypt’s local market and corruption in the area of industrial lands.
“Do you know that one importer — and he is not Egyptian — is monopolising the import of ceramics and porcelain on the local market, and that there are a handful of importers doing the same with other goods,” asked Wahdan.
When Nasser answered, “I do not know what you're speaking about," Wahdan said, “This is a large fault, and if you do not like my questions, please leave the meeting and goodbye.”
Angered by Wahdan’s words, Nasser decided to withdraw. Head of the Committee Farag Amer pleaded that Nasser stay, but he refused.
Before leaving, Nasser told MPs that the government’s policy of allocating lands to industrial projects does not seek generating any margin of profits.
“Besides,” said Nasser, “the government allocates lands only after its provides them with all the necessary utilities, primarily electricity and water, to be ready for operation at once.”
MPs, however, complained that investors who were allocated lands to establish projects are currently facing many problems because of a lack of utilities.
MP Evelyn Boutros said many investors in the new industrial city of Damietta have lost investments worth of millions of pounds due to a lack of public services and necessary utilities.
“They invested in the furniture industry, but at the end they decided to quit the land after they incurred a lot of losses,” said Boutros.
Amer, an Alexandria industrialist, said industrial investors had already complained that their projects on new lands have not yet been provided with electricity and that this costs them significant losses.
MP Mamdouh Emara said a fact-finding committee should be formed to investigate corruption in the area of allocating lands.
“As far as we know, there are a handful of brokers who charge illegal money from investors who were allocated lands,” said Emara.
In response, Nassar asked Emara, “Please give me a list of the names of those brokers, or lodge a complaint with the prosecutor general or the Administrative Control Authority.”
Joining forces, MP Radwan El-Zayati asserted that a handful of brokers have monopolised the allocation of lands to industrial investors. “There is a lot of corruption and injustice in this sector and we hope Minister Nasser will investigate this,” said El-Zayati.
Wahdan said Egypt has the largest industrial base in the region. “We should safeguard this base against monopolies, but it is deplorable that Minister Nassar is completely unaware of the corruption in this sector,” he added.