Egyptian business leaders to gather in NYC for Int'l Economic Reform Forum

Ahram Online, Sunday 22 Sep 2013

International conference aims to establish an Egyptian national council to effectively tackle economic woes

Ziad Bahaa El-Din
Ziad Bahaa El-Din at UNESCWA conference on social justice in transitional societies, 2012. (Photo: UN-ESCWA YouTube account)

Egyptian government officials, economists, and leading business figures are gathering in New York on Monday to discuss Egypt's economic future.

The three-day conference, entitled 'Egypt Economic Reform Forum: A way forward,' aims to "create a framework for an Egypt National Economic Council, which would support Egyptian authorities in developing a sound economic plan for Egypt’s future," according to the event's mission statement.

Egypt's interim government, installed after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, is still coming to grips with the decline of the country's economy since the January 2011 revolution.

The budget deficit has grown by a whopping 78 percent since the 2010/2011 fiscal year, reaching 14 percent of GDP. Economic growth, which peaked at 7.2 percent in June 2008 before the global financial crisis took its toll, has slowed to an average of 2.3 percent, and the official unemployment rate has risen to 13.3 percent from 8.9 percent in the first quarter of 2011.

Egyptian speakers and attendees will include: Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of International Cooperation Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, Minister of Investment Osama Saleh, Egyptian Stock Exchange Chairman Mohamed Omran, Dean of the Faculty of Economics & Political Science at Cairo University Hala El-Said, prominent businessman Samih Sawiris, and Head of the Commercial International Bank - Egypt's largest private sector lender - Hisham Ezz Al-Arab.

Among international attendees is Christopher Jarvis, the International Monetary Fund Mission Chief for Egypt.

Egypt stopped pursuing a $4.8 billion conditional loan from the international lender, which required austerity measures after Morsi's ouster in July, when friendly Gulf neighbours rushed to pledge $12 billion in aid.

Instead, Egypt has embarked on a stimulus plan which will involve pumping an additional LE22.3 billion over the current fiscal year into labour-intensive and infrastructural projects.

The government has also pledged to enforce a minimum wage of LE1200, which will mean additional spending in the millions, while it targets a 34 percent drop in the budget deficit, relying on a rise in tax revenues of 43 percent, as part of a revised state budget.

Participants will explore ways of increasing coordination among the state's institutions to build and implement a long-term national economic policy.

The event is sponsored by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a family-owned American philanthropic foundation.

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