The economic climate -- in President Mubarak's eyes
How would you reassure an American businessman who is thinking of investing in Egypt, but who needs to be sure that the country will be stable and his investment will be protected - and not nationalized - over a five- to 10-year period?
We have given so many assurances of this kind. We have stability now in the country. There is no nationalization. Our Constitution prevents that. . . . Stability has been guaranteed. We have incentives for investors.
Would you see your problem as being the same of economic recession experienced throughout the world?
Yes . . . but we have others: The infrastructure should have been renewed or maintained a long time ago.
And how is your government going about solving these problems? You have a new five-year plan. Is that addressed to this problem - infrastructure - in particular?
Yes, of course.
Do you foresee a change in the current balance of public- and private-sector activity in the Egyptian economy? Some economists say that currently Egypt has 85 percent of its employment and output in the public sector and 15 percent in the private. Do you think that in five years that proportion will change?
I hope so. We are encouraging the private sector, but we are maintaining the public sector.
Would you like to see the percentages changing to 50 percent private and 50 percent public?
The public sector should have the lead, let us be frank. It shouldn't be less than 50 percent under any circumstance. But to have them both equal - the private sector equal to the public sector - I have no objection.
In the next five years, according to current projections, Egypt is going to have 2 million new workers. Are you confident that Egyptian businessmen will invest sufficiently in the next five years in the Egyptian economy to accommodate the expected 2 million new workers? Or will more public-sector investment be needed?
We have another market for these workers. We are creating technical training opportunities for a lot of these people so as to be used technically here. Some of them are going to leave and go to the Arab world, Africa, and elsewhere.
What kind of daily problems do you think an average Egyptian faces that you would like to see disappear - or at least significantly reduced?
I think you can realize and feel the problems an Egyptian feels every day. They are frustrated by a lot of things. The water and sewage here in Cairo needs (STR)2.3 billion (Egyptian), or $1.64 billion. That's a big amount. Water , electricity, housing - lots of problems.We have started to work on these.
You recently announced that Egyptian citizens are being asked to donate privately to debt repayment. Are you worried about Egypt becoming overly dependent on the West, on foreign aid and loans?
I think the five-year plan gives you an indication that we are trying to encourage productivity in this country. With the increase of production, I think you can't say we are depending fully on the West.
But why is it that you have adopted this campaign to have private citizens contribute to servicing the foreign debt?
The people should feel that they should participate in such a thing. How much are they going to collect: (STR)500 million? (STR)100 million? The meaning is that the people should participate in relieving the debt of the country. That is much more important than the amount we are going to collect.
Egypt regards itself as an equal with Israel on the question of American military and economic aid. Israel is receiving an increase in foreign aid from the United States. Is Egypt going to seek an increase?
No, I am not seeking an increase in foreign aid. All we are asking the United States for is to have much more flexibility in using aid.
Does Egypt want total control over how the aid money is spent?
Of course. We are trying for that.
It seems Arab investment is essential to Egypt's economic progress. Do you foresee a surge in private Arab investment in Egypt - from countries such as Saudi Arabia - in the near future? Would you consider that an indication that the Arab boycott of Egypt is finished?
There is no Arab boycott. Even after the freezing of relations, there was no Arab boycott. We had Arabs here right away after this freezing took place - from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the Gulf countries, and Syria. And in the past year there has been an increase in the rate of investment from Arab countries. I don't think the boycott was ever really used. I know all these Arabs. Most of them agree to the way Sadat adopted for the solution of the problem. But they can't declare it openly, frankly, because of the terrorism of some other factions.