Egypt schedules major economic summit in March
Picture from November 22, 2014 conference
 

A date has now been set for the economic development summit that Egyptian officials have been talking about for the past several months, with the event scheduled to take place from March 13-15 in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

After several delays, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb told the state-owned Middle East News Agency on Saturday that Egypt’s Economic Development Conference has been scheduled to ensure high attendance from partners around the world.

The conference is not an isolated event, but is part of the government’s broader development efforts, which Mehleb told MENA requires support from citizens and partners “to ensure the country’s stability and that of the region and the world,” in reference to global terrorism.  

Officials from the International Monetary Fund are currently in Cairo to assess the nation’s progress on various economic reforms. Their presence may signal the resumption of talks regarding a loan to Egypt, which have been stalled for the past three years.

It is seen as unlikely that negotiations will progress without a more definitive effort to hold parliamentary elections. After several delays in the process, officials were recently quoted as saying that elections may be held in late December for parliament to convene by March.

Elections are seen as a precursor to both IMF loan talks and the ambitious economic conference.

The conference will focus on developing various sectors of the economy, as well as energy, healthcare and education, all issues that Egypt has struggled to address, especially in the past three years of political turmoil and economic stagnation.

In preparation for the summit, Egypt is partnering with international conference organization companies in an attempt to ensure a streamlined process, Mehleb said.

Ahead of the global gathering, meant to lure direly needed investments into a cash-strapped economy, Egypt is looking to settle disputes with investors and instill a sense of confidence that their interests will be protected, according to MENA.

Though it is vital to protect investors from the unpredictable changes that come about as a result of sudden political change, Egypt’s approach to protecting investor interests has often been criticized for its lack of transparency. In the past, critics have said that carte blanche guarantees to investors have come at the expense of sustainable and inclusive economic development, a challenge this summit will have to address boldly.

Mehleb said that economic legislation would be reviewed by a higher committee to ensure it is investor-friendly; facilitating business while combating corruption and easing bureaucracy. Meanwhile, a number of projects have been crafted and will be presented to potential investors, both local and foreign, he added, that are aligned with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s vision for inclusive development.

“We have been and will continue to send messages that affirm our determination to political and economic stability,” Mehleb said.

Minister of International Cooperation Nagla al-Ahwany, who is leading the organization of the conference, said a day would be dedicated to presenting future projects that will put Egypt on the global economic map.

She added that there will be talks with both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates ahead of the conference. Since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013, both countries have provided Egypt with billions of dollars of financial support and investments.

Minister of Investment Ashraf Salman said that this all comes as part of recent reforms aimed at reducing the deficit, including energy subsidy reforms and the introduction of a Value Added Tax.

Earlier this week, Jin Cai, executive vice president and CEO of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), was also in Cairo and confirmed their participation in the conference.

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