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Egypt kicks off key economic summit
March 13, 2015, 2:46 pm

Sharm El Sheikh, which today hosts the Egypt Economic and Development conference, has been a major tourist hotspot, as well as a popular venue for international fora [Xinhua]

Sharm El Sheikh, which today hosts the Egypt Economic and Development conference, has been a major tourist hotspot, as well as a popular venue for international fora [Xinhua]

US Secretary of State John Kerry, Kuwaiti Emir Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Jordanian King Abdullah II joined world leaders at the inauguration of the Egypt Economic Development Conference in the resort town of Sharm el Sheikh Friday.

Dubbed Egypt: The Future, the three-day conference is designed to reposition the country on the global investment map as a prime business hub by renewing foreign investor confidence following four years of political and economic turmoil.

During his opening speech, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said he embraced those who would be partners in helping to develop a new Egypt.

“Egypt is a country which opposes extremism and terrorism, a country which enjoys good relations with its neighbors,” he said. The stability of Egypt is the stability of the region, he added.

El-Sisi thanked the late Saudi King Abdullah who first suggested holding an economic summit to help Egypt rebuild its economy.

He said that Egypt had long-term vision to boost economic growth to an annual 6 per cent, and create strategic investment opportunities through the Suez Canal project, reclaim desert land for agricultural development, reduce unemployment to 10 per cent, and capitalize on human resources.

In the short-term, he said, Egypt will work toward fiscal reform.

According to data released by the government on the eve of the conference, 2,000 participants representing 120 delegations from 112 countries are meeting in Sharm El Sheikh.

At least 20 heads of state lead the delegations, with prime ministers and trade officials also participating in the event.

Egyptian economic anslysts say that there are 50 projects worth $35 to $45 billion that will be proposed at the conference with particular emphasis on the petrochemical, agriculture, information technology, and solar energy sectors, among others.

According to Egypt’s Finance Ministry, 10 projects have all ready been agreed and will be signed during the conference.

“The importance [of the conference] doesn’t lie in the fact that it is one event and that’s it. You need to create the image that you have changed your country’s investment environment in a way that would make the local investment, even before the foreign investment, come and continue,” said Abla Abdel Latif, Advisor to the Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade and Economics Professor at the American University in Cairo.

In order to ensure the success of the conference, the government has been working on three different points: the organization of the conference, the rights of the investor and the reviewing of all related legislation that would attract investors.

On Thursday, El-Sisi ratified a new investment law which had been in the works for months.

The new law includes fiscal and legal reforms which make it easier for foreign investors to conduct business with considerable freedoms.

A key provision gives local investors rights and liberties equal to their foreign counterparts.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said it is encouraged by some of Egypt’s recent financial reforms.

IMF head Christine Lagarde said Egypt’s economic growth is currently 4 per cent and that the Sharm El-Sheikh summit “paves the way for more cooperation between IMF and Egypt”.

Hours before the conference began, Kerry said that the US supported Egypt’s push for economic reforms.

“We are coming to acknowledge the steps that the Egyptians have taken recently to try to build a more welcoming and open investment environment and press for more of the same,” Kerry told the media in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Kerry is to also meet with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Other meetings on the sidelines of the summit are expected to cover issues such as how to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the crises in Libya and Syria.

The BRICS POST with additional reporting by Sarah El Safty in Cairo, Egypt

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