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MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) - 12/04/2014
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(MENAFN - Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)) A senior member of the Egyptian cabinet has stressed that his country's priority is its stability, especially as it takes steps toward economic growth, and remains "serious about reforms" in what he called "the new Egypt." In remarks delivered at the Middle East Institute during his trip here for the World Bank spring meetings, Egypt's newly-appointed Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, Ashraf El-Araby, outlined four challenges facing his government: security, inclusivity, restoration of confidence, and the promotion of high growth rates

"Historically, we had several visions, tens of strategies, but none of those strategies were agreed upon," he said, adding that Egypt needs "to have a comprehensive and inclusive vision" in order to move forward economically

El-Araby noted that "overall, we are on the right track," but said Egyptians must feel like they have "real ownership" of the strategy adopted by the government

To achieve this, he explained, both the private sector and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have been invited to take the lead in the development of a national strategy to carry Egypt to the year 2030

El-Araby then pointed to "fiscal sustainability" - something he called "the magic term" - as the means to restore confidence in the economy

"We are not going to talk with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) about a new loan during this transition period," he said. "We see it better left for the incoming government," starting with presidential elections in late May of this year

However "with or without the IMF agreement, we need to take serious action to deal with these structural challenges," he continued

As the country aims for high growth rates, El-Araby said the government is "working on trying to review all t investment laws" for petroleum, electricity and construction among other areas

"We injected two stimulus packages representing three percent of GDP," he explained, resulting in around USD nine billion to create jobs, as well as industrial zones in the country

But when it comes to employment, young people face the greatest challenges. According to El-Araby, 15.4 percent of the population is out of work, with the majority being the youth. "We need to create decent jobs in the formal sector," he said

"In the last three years, the growth rate in Egypt was two percent annually, equal or less than the population growth rate," he added. "The per capita income did not change at all over the last three years," since the start of the uprising that toppled the former regime

In comparison, El-Araby noted that even during the global economic crisis in 2008, the Egyptian growth rate remained at seven percent

For now, the government has already begun working on reforms to both the taxation system as well as the subsidization of energy in order to produce revenue. El-Araby insisted, however, that there's much more to be done

"We need to establish a solid social safety net," he said, by creating a unified database for subsidies, and then later for conditional cash handouts to assist the poor and lift them out of the "vicious cycle" of poverty

There is a "need to also restore the balance between population and natural resources," said El-Araby. To that aim, he cited "population redistribution," as well as allocating 10 percent of the GDP to education, health, and scientific research

But while many of these plans are worked out, transparency will also be a priority in "the new Egypt." El-Araby laughed as he asked, "How to introduce the term accountability to Egyptian society?"


Kuwait News Agency (KUNA)

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