Minister of International Cooperation, Dr. Rania Al-Mashat, presented Egypt’s success story in achieving economic growth in the Middle East and North Africa region during her participation in the “Policy Makers Brief” organized by the HSBC’s Global Emerging Markets Forum.
Al Mashat referred to the recent “Regional Economic Prospects” report issued by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on Egypt’s economy, which indicates that Egypt is the only economy to avoid a recession, in its country of operations, achieving growth of 2% in 2020 and rebound to a 5% in 2021 due to the implementation of infrastructure projects and structural reforms that readied its economy for the impact of the ongoing global pandemic. Respond and Rebuild The minister highlighted Egypt’s ‘Response and Rebuild’ strategy, which was based on three pillars: protect, provide and progress. The strategy focuses on protecting the population from the virus, providing easier access to credit to help households smooth consumption as well as liquidity for firms to survive the disruption, and pushing progress by expediting structural reforms through and beyond COVID-19. To protect the population from the virus, Egypt early on imposed a partial lockdown, halted air travel, temporarily closed all places of worship as well as schools and universities, and also encouraged remote working across public and private sectors. To provide essential protective equipment and other supplies, medical supplies and other services, the president approved a EGP 100 billion allocation to confront the pandemic, in which an amount of EGP 188 million has been transferred to the Ministry of Health and Population. Wages and bonuses of doctors and medical staff increased, and a periodic allowance of 7% have been approved for public sector employees subject to the Civil Service Law as well as a 12% bonus for state employees who are not subject to the Civil Service Law. In addition, grant an additional incentive to all workers and employees ranging from 150 to 375 pounds per month to improve their standards of living. To support the private sector and ensure economic progress, interest rates were lowered by 300 points and the payment of the real estate tax imposed on factories and touristic establishments was postponed for a period of 3 months; allowing to install the real estate taxes due on the factories and the touristic establishment from previous periods through monthly installments over a period of 6 months. In addition, the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance have taken a number of measures to encourage financial inclusion and enable citizens to complete their banking transactions remotely. Multilateralism for faster recovery Al Mashat added that multilateral international cooperation played a role in mitigating the impact of the pandemic in Egypt, as evidenced by the digital education programs with the World Bank, which allowed students to complete the school year remotely, in addition to other programs that supported the health sector and social inclusion through the ‘Takaful and Karama’ programs. The minister noted that the Ministry of International Cooperation is working, through the principles of economic diplomacy, to strengthen the ‘Global Partnerships for Effective Development’. These principles include regularly organizing multi-stakeholder platforms to ensure that all projects between development partners are streamlined and effectively coordinated; adopting a consistent Global Partnerships Narrative People&Projects&Purpose (P&P&P) to showcase success story and reforming the perceptions of Egypt among bilateral and multilateral agencies; and mapping ODA financing to SDGs for all projects with multilateral and bilateral development partners. She stressed that multilateral cooperation is essential to achieving faster recovery for all, as “global problems require global solutions,” namely in regards to strengthening climate action, ending hunger and poverty and addressing gender inequalities. The minister referred to an example of cooperation through the WEF’s regional action group, where she joined a group of senior decision-makers from the government, businesses, and civil society, to design a new roadmap that applies the principles of stakeholder capitalism for the Middle East and North Africa, which aims to push for an inclusive, sustainable, and resilient recovery for the region.