"I have become proud of this country more than ever. The Egyptian economy has the capacity to be one of the emergent economies like India and South Africa", with those words, Minister of Finance Samir Radwan began his first press conference since his nomination to the post.
"What I am saying is based on figures and real possibilities", added the minister.
Radwan made assurances that the various foreign delegations who visited Egypt recently have all noted that the revolution’s effect on the economy is not tremendous, considering that the country’s entire infrastructure is still working.
In the short term, the minister’s main challenge will be controlling the budget deficit and facing a decrease in growth.
The budget deficit is expected to reach between 8.3 and 8.5 per cent in 2010/2011 against a previous forecast of 7.5 per cent. Originally, the forecast for the year was at 7.9 per cent but savings on some expenses lowered the expected deficit before recent events brought it up again.
The budget this year will see some revenue loss mainly in the tourism sector as well as some expenditure increases due to planned salaries raises for the public employees, which would cost LE750 million.
"The savings in some articles like the debt service and wages will help the deficit not to increase too much", said Hani Adry Demyan, assistant to the minister.
According to Hani Adry Demyan, the tourism sector, the main economic zone hit by the events of 25 January is recovering faster than expected. "Hotel occupancy has jumped from 4 per cent in late January and the first weeks of February to 16 per cent", assured Demyan.
The second economic challenge will be employment and wages. The new minister who met some of the Tahrir activists and has another meeting with them tomorrow understands well that unemployment and wages are the main economic concerns of many people.
The ministry will launch what it calls the “National Programme for Employment” that consists of three points. The first point will be boosting public projects in utilities and infrastructure.
"Some projects are half done. Let's finish them. That will have a fast impact on both growth and employment", says Radwan.
The second point is to promote Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), "an idea that has been repeated for decades with no real advance", admitted the minister.
"The idea is to create one organisation to be in charge of SME'S as we saw in Malaysia. By 2020, this sector will accommodate 42 per cent of the manpower in Egypt versus 25 per cent now"
The third point presented by the government consists of national big projects like the development path, which consists of a parallel new valley to the Nile valley, creating a new cultivable and urban area in the desert capitalising on the existence of underground water.
Samir Radwan concluded his vision saying that the Budget should be used to achieve social justice through spending on education, health and developing the poor areas.