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The Crime of Repelling Investors

There are several things that have become certain. The first is that we have no way out considering the difficult economic situation we are facing except with a strong and real presence of foreign direct investment. Investment from private institutions and funds, not state investments. The second matter is that foreign direct investment will not flow into our economy unless our socioeconomic conditions are positive and favorable. The third sure thing is that the state, through its policies and initiatives, has begun to adopt this approach. The only thing that stands in the face of these realities falling into practice is the fact that lower-level bureaucrats follow methods that contradict all the policies and statements adopted by the state through its senior officials. Their effort to dissuade investors include two forms of methods: attrition and intimidation. Some of the senior staff, as well as their junior cronies, are waging a war of attrition against the investors, with the goal of extracting the largest amount of the investor’s money by various means. The second approach, intimidation, consists of presenting investors with archaic regulations that complicate the investment process and scare investors away. The sad reality is that a junior employee in the Finance Ministry can come up with a “legal” measure to which the investor is bound, even if it contradicts all basic economic and financial logic. But the intimidation doesn’t stop there. There are several government departments that, through their arbitrary policies and intransigence, launch attacks on foreign investors by freezing their accounts under the context of disputed debts. This is a matter that causes great harm to the company, its employees, and customers, and, ultimately, to the Egyptian economy. Added to all this are the already convoluted and difficult conditions of conducting business in our country. This is nothing short of a crime against the Egyptian state and the economy. If we are serious about our goal of attracting foreign investments, then this seriousness should be reflected in our policies, how we implement them, and how we enforce them. I am afraid that the existing situation will cause the departure of big international companies from Egypt and a negative impact on our reputation and economy. –Abdel Latif El Menawy (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)