Adnan El-Sharqawi, Deputy Chairman of the Egyptian Arab Land Bank and Board Member of Federation of Egyptian Banks, expressed his optimism regarding the Egyptian economy and its ability to recover in the next period.
At the same time, El-Sharqawi criticised the deficiency in the performance of some ministers, asserting that Egypt needs highly efficient people able to make bold and fast decisions.
In an exclusive interview with Daily News Egypt, El-Sharqawi asserted that corruption should be strongly combated, especially as customs evasion causes the country to lose billions of dollars annually. He added that it is necessary to coordinate between both the monetary and financial policies.
How do you perceive the future of the Egyptian economy?
I am very optimistic about the future of Egypt, and its economy.
On what bases did you build that optimism?
That optimism did not come out of the blue, but as a result of a number of indicators, the most important of which is raising the credit rating of the country again by the international rating institutions, twice in a row, after several downgrades in the last years, which proves that there is change in how these institutions perceive Egypt and its political and economic future. One more reason that makes me optimistic is that the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb breaks into a lot of files and problems, which the previous governments did not dare to break into, like the file of subsidies, and others. The strange thing is that the government broke into these problems and we found that the people supported it, although it was affected by the decisions the government took, which is another cause for optimism.
Did the opening of the New Suez Canal play a role in reassuring you about the economy’s future?
What happened in the New Suez Canal Project was a miracle by all standards, whether with regards to providing the funds for this project in only eight days, or completing the project as scheduled. These two achievements sent a message to the world that the people support their president, and that they are able to do anything as long they believe in their leadership and its sincerity. Moreover, the national projects that were revealed, coinciding with the opening of the New Suez Canal, sent a message to the entire world that the issue will not stop at digging the new canal, and that what Egypt is waiting for is much greater and bigger.
The positions of foreign countries have changed significantly in the last period. The US, for instance, changed its position, while France became a strong supporter for Egypt, as well as the rest of the European Union countries. It is clear also that Egypt’s relations with the African countries have witnessed a significant improvement, although President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi took office while relations with Africa were almost nonexistent. The entire world looks at us now with great respect, especially with the president’s desire to manage balanced relations with all countries of the world, which is a politically smart move on his part, that we have to praise. Moreover, diversifying the sources of weapons was of utmost importance for Egypt. Now, we have received weapons from Russia, France, Germany, China, beside the US weapons. All this political development ultimately reflects well on the economy.
But with that optimism, do you not think that things are moving slowly, which is not in line with the circumstances Egypt is currently going through?
Yes, that is true, and I demand that the Prime Minister make a quick cabinet reshuffle, and the same for some of the governors. I demand that he appoints people who are able to make bold and fast decisions for the government. Everyone notices that the steps taken by the president, prime minister, and some of the ministers are faster than the step of other ministers.
Who exactly do you want to change in the government?
There is a clear deficiency in the performance of some ministers in the economic group, mainly the Ministers of Investment, and Trade and Industry. Their performance should be stronger. The performance of the Minister of Youth and Sports as well needs to be revisited.
What does the Minister of Youth and Sports have to offer to support the economy?
The Minister of Youth and Sports can have a big role in easing a lot of the problems the country suffers from, like unemployment and the disasters it causes. This minister can adopt a major national project to soak up the unemployment, and attract the youth to it. The government can provide infrastructure and integrated services for such a project. After that, it can hand over its ownership to the youth. Moreover, the 1m acres reclamation project can be adopted in each governorate in the country. If the Minister of Youth succeeds in achieving this, he will restore the power of the youth, fight terrorism, contribute to the growth of the country’s economy, in addition to the role he plays in educating the youth.
What else do you think is necessary for Egypt to move forward in the next period?
In addition to the necessity of a strong government, we also need a clearer vision for the economic future of the country, and to present this vision to the parliament, which will be the people’s representative. Moreover, the government’s efforts should reach the people. In that regard, I suggest establishing a sector in the government or a professional working team of ministers, to present to the people the government’s vision and its action plan for the next three years at least. This includes presenting the projects that will be executed, the date of execution, the projects’ effect on the people, and the time it will take for the people to feel the positive impact of the decisions and projects the government executes. The state should combat corruption powerfully. Here, I do not mean administrative corruption alone, but corruption wherever it occurs. For instance, customs evasion is one of the most harmful kinds of corruption; it causes the country to lose billions of dollars that it really needs.
How do you evaluate the procedures the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) has taken in the last months? Are they sufficient to face those who work for personal interests?
The CBE regulates the exchange market, and it eliminated a large proportion of the black market of currency trading. It also works on providing dollars to import basic commodities, and decides on a percentage of the banks’ dollar resources for importing the non-essential goods. Everybody knows that the CBE is attacked by those who are looking for personal interests, although the procedures it introduces are applied worldwide. Moreover, these procedures alone are not enough; that is why it is important to coordinate between both the monetary and financial policies.
What are the other procedures that you think they are necessary to support the state in the next period?
I call on the government to apply incremental taxes in accordance the income of every citizen. In countries like France, the rate of this tax reaches 35% – I believe that we can make it up to 40%. Applying incremental taxes is better than applying the maximum wage, and affects the general budget of the country more. Moreover, this tax will have positive impact on low-income people, whereby minimum wages and pensions can be increased through the capital that will be provided by the incremental taxes.
In your opinion, what are the projects that Egypt needs in this period?
We are in most need of establishing mega projects in the energy field, and oil exploration. It is known that all the projects that the state aims to establish will not succeed unless the government provides them with the needed energy. New and renewable energy should be focused on, as well as all the irregular sources of energy, like the sun and wind. Moreover, an alliance between Egypt and some Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait, can be created in order to launch big projects in the field of energy.
The fertiliser projects also are very important for Egypt in the next period, especially with the state’s move towards cultivating millions of acres. We import a large percentage of fertilisers, although we have the infrastructure for that industry, except the energy needed for it. I believe that, if we break into that industry, we will benefit a lot, whereby we will save the foreign reserves used to import the fertilisers. In addition, the Egyptian farmer will benefit from the reduction in the fertilisers’ prices.
We also need a national project for Egyptian fabric, and a national project for reviving Egyptian cotton. Furthermore, attention should be given to the medium and small projects, which the economies of a lot of countries are based upon, like India, Brazil, and China, due to their ability to create many employment opportunities.
Finally, I would like to assert that investing in humans, education, and focusing on technical education in particular, is more important than all these projects, because building a citizen who is healthy, with a proper mindset, intellectually and physically qualified, would take Egypt a large step forward.