The Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade has been working to implement the industry stimulation strategy from 2016 to 2020, according to minister Tarek Kabil. The strategy includes five aspects: deepening industry, industrial and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) development, increasing exports, vocational training, and governance.
In October, industrial production grew by 20%, Kabil said during the first session on the second day of the Akhbar Al Youm Economic Conference.
“We are working to bridge the trade balance gap, estimated at $49bn, through increasing exports to $30bn annually, compared to the current $22bn, while lowering imports to EGP 54bn, compared to EGP 67bn in FY 2016/2017, excluding petroleum imports.”
The measures will create 3m jobs, the minister said. The import of goods cannot be prevented entirely because Egypt is committed to trade agreements that govern the import and export processes.
“The state cannot ban importing completely, but we have different ways to organise importing through Article 28 which allows the state to increase the custom tariff on some goods. But to be enforced, this issue requires negotiations with trade partners,” Kabil explained.
He added that the negotiations must include the provision of incentives to countries for which the custom tariff on their products increases.
Kabil noted that increasing customs on certain goods does not aim to hinder trade but rather adjust the balance of payments in coordination with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which announced that the country has a crisis in the balance of payments.
The minister expressed his concern, as these measures may cause some countries to take their own measures against Egypt’s exports. This step would be a negative message for Egypt‘s economy and would hinder the flow of direct foreign investments as well as limit the flow of Egyptian exports abroad, he said.
“Egypt managed to increase its exports by $1bn from January to now, and it lowered imports by $7bn,” he said, adding that the government is working to rationalise the import of goods worth $12.5bn to adjust the deficit in the trade balance.
Banque du Caire is providing financing not only for major projects and the budget deficit, but also to provide the financing necessary for SMEs, according to chairperson Mounir El Zahid.
He explained that SMEs are still suffering due to the recent controls of banks. These controls are necessary for lending, including the condition that small enterprises must own financial lists and feasibility studies, which has delayed these enterprises being able to obtain funding.
El Zahid said that CBE’s initiative to provide EGP 200bn to finance SMEs is good but working with these smaller-sized companies requires different methods for large companies.
The minister said that the government is working on expanding industrial complexes. He revealed that the government is working to provide production inputs so as to transform, for example, from collecting car parts to manufacturing cars.
In a less optimistic view, chairperson of the 10th of Ramadan Investors Association Waleed Helal said that industry is facing problems. The aim of any industry is to create jobs but job creation requires reconsidering land and tax pricing. He criticised the parliament’s slow pace in terms of approving the legislative to stimulate industry. He demanded that the industry minister allocate a bureau for serving industry workers.