Attending the two-day World Government Summit in Dubai, where Egypt is the guest of honour, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi was keen to explain the economic situation in Egypt and reaffirm the country’s brotherly relations with the Arab Gulf.
The president led a high-level delegation to the event. He held talks with senior Emirati officials, including UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and UAE Vice President and Prime Minister Mohamed bin Rashed Al-Maktoum. On Monday, he met with International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and a number of leading private sector businessmen.
Elaborating on the challenges Egypt has faced since 2011, Al-Sisi said “countries which collapse find it very difficult to rise up and stand up on their feet again, but in Egypt we were able to confront the challenges and move forward.”
He said the chaos which Egypt faced after the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak had cost the country $450 billion in losses, but thanks to the sacrifices offered by the Egyptian people and “the support we received from our brothers in the Arab Gulf”, Egypt survived.
Egyptians, he continued, have also proved resilient in the face of the current global economic crisis which triggered a spiral in inflation that is making living conditions difficult for many.
“I know that those with malicious intentions are using lies and defamation to foment trouble and break the confidence between the Egyptian people and its political leadership, but the Egyptian public is well aware of these wicked machinations and will not let them disrupt their country again,” he said.
President Al-Sisi also reviewed the challenges which have faced Egypt since 2011, beginning with a severe shortage of electricity and petrol, and including security and terrorism threats.
“When I came to power, the country was facing an electricity crisis. We have spent LE1.7 trillion on electricity over the past seven years to help Egypt escape this energy crisis,” Al-Sisi told summit participants. “Rehabilitating the transport sector has cost another LE2 trillion. And do not forget that Egypt’s population increased from 80 million in 2011 to 104 million in 2022. This presents another set of challenges, particularly for the education sector which is in pressing need of $250 billion to be upgraded and streamlined.”
“Egypt needs $1 trillion a year to achieve its development ambitions. Since we don’t have this money, we have to seek new ideas and initiatives. After all, it isn’t just money that helped Egypt confront past challenges. We also depended on new ideas and initiatives.”
President Al-Sisi also used the occasion to reaffirm the strength of Egypt-Gulf relations.
“Let me use my attendance at this summit to express thanks to our Arab brethren for all the support they have given us, and let me call on Arab peoples not to allow wicked websites, writers, and thoughts to negatively affect our brotherly relations. Without the support which our brothers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait have offered us since 2013, Egypt would not have been able to move forward and succeed.”
Al-Sisi noted that following Mohamed Morsi’s removal from office in 2013, he was informed of UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed’s wish to visit Egypt. At the time, Egyptians were queuing in front of petrol stations for gasoline, diesel and butane gas “but under orders from Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, many ships carrying gasoline, diesel, and butane were asked to change course and head to Egypt to help us end the petrol crisis.”
Al-Sisi’s remarks came days after he denied a rift in relations with Saudi Arabia and accused social media users and some commentators of trying to drive a wedge between Cairo and Riyadh.
Meanwhile, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Said and head of the Sovereign Fund of Egypt (SFE) Ayman Suleiman are touring Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries to drum up interest in the government’s new privatisation programme, part of the economic reform programme which Al-Sisi discussed during his meeting with Georgieva.
“Egypt’s $3 billion loan agreement with the IMF and its related economic reform programme were discussed by the president and the fund’s managing director. President Al-Sisi reaffirmed the country’s commitment to fiscal and monetary structural reforms and to boosting the private sector’s role in the economy,” said Presidential Spokesman Ahmed Fahmi.
“The IMF’s managing director said Egypt has shown great resilience in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the IMF is keen to continue its support for Egypt’s economic reforms.”
* A version of this article appears in print in the 16 February, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly