By Nihal Mounir
The government intends to conduct economic consultations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) opening new avenues for mutual cooperation, said Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour.
Abdel Nour said that the World Bank announced its support for the Egyptian economy for the near future, particularly through financing of SMEs and amending laws organising economic activities in Egypt. The bank has allocated EGP 6bn for this purpose.
This came during an expanded meeting held by Abdel Nour with a delegation from the US State Department. Amongst the US delegation were two senior advisers, Thomas Shannon and David Thorne, and a number of economic officials from the State Department.
Abdel Nour said the government has begun taking concrete steps to address the current energy crisis in Egypt. He said the government is keen to expand petroleum production and renewable energy projects. The government has also begun importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) and has determined prices for electricity generated by renewable energy projects to open the door to more investments in this field.
He also stressed the need for the US to play an active and influential role in economic conferences to be held by the Egyptian government.
The new Suez Canal project, which enjoys broad popular support, is large and needs great investments from the Egyptian people, Abdel Nour said.
He stated the need to activate the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) which has been stopped for some time, as it permits a number of Egyptian goods and products to enter US markets without charges. He pointed to the importance of this agreement in increasing intra-regional trade rates between Egypt and the US.
He added that SMEs form one of the ministry’s most important priorities at present, noting that they represent 90% of Egypt’s industrial system and account for 75% of employment. He pointed out that the government will produce a new strategy to develop SMEs.
Abdel Nour also said the ministry is working with donor countries as well as the Social Fund for Development and commercial banks to provide the funding necessary for SMEs. He explained that the government is in the process of creating industrial clusters for SMEs and developing certain areas allocated to specified small industries.
Advisor to US Secretary of State David Thorne said the US appreciated Egyptian efforts to push forward the peace process in the region. He added that that the World Bank and IMF are following up on economic developments in Egypt and hope to support the country‘s economy in a multitude of ways. He also noted that the US government hopes to encourage and increase American investments in the Egyptian market.
Thomas Shannon, a State Department advisor, said that the recently held US-Africa Summit made significant progress in advancing economic relations. He said that Egypt is one of the US’ most important economic partners in the Middle East. He also pointed to a need to promote trade relations between the two countries.