By Erika Solomon/Reuters
DUBAI: Egypt’s former trade minister, sacked with the rest of President Hosni Mubarak’s cabinet in an attempt to quell mass protests, said Mubarak’s participation in the country’s government transition was “critical.”
Rachid Mohamed Rachid told Reuters in a phone interview on Sunday he planned to return to Egypt despite learning on arrival in Dubai last week that the government had imposed a travel ban on him and frozen his Egyptian assets.
Rachid said he had declined an offer by the new Prime Minister to return to his post but thought Mubarak should stay.
“I believe that the presence of President Mubarak in the next phase of transition for the next few months is very important, it’s very critical,” Rachid said.
“It is going to be extremely negative and incomprehensible that we have no leadership to manage this transition,” he said, arguing that investor confidence in Egypt hinged on its ability to project a sense of renewed security and stability quickly.
Egypt last week froze several Egyptian officials’ assets and imposed travel bans after prosecutors received complaints of theft of public funds. Rachid declined to comment on the allegations.
“I am planning to be back in Egypt as soon as possible,” he said. “I left for family reasons, members of my family were outside of Egypt and I wanted to make sure that they are safe.”
Rachid, a regular at the World Economic Forum in Davos, has been an important face for Egypt in the commodities market as former minister of trade overseeing global wheat prices in the world’s biggest wheat importer.
He said he had no interest in going back into government at this time.
“I have no plans and no interest at the moment, that’s it. Do you think after all this, I’d be excited to do something like this?” he said.
“I explained to the Prime Minister he may be in need of new faces and I’m aware he might take different measures and different policies,” Rachid said. “I never expected this to end this way. You have to accept I’m a bit confused and puzzled about what to do next.”
Investor confidence critical
Before protests hit Egypt two weeks ago, the country had drawn in investors with its sturdy growth rates that even in the world downturn hovered just below 5 percent a year and had since climbed to 6 percent.
“The gross levels that we were expecting this year were depending heavily on investment on the local as well as foreign level. That is a critical point at this stage now,” Rachid said.
“They (the transitional government) need to articulate clearly their economic direction in a way that investors can feel confident. And they need to stick to the roadmap of democratic reform.”
Rachid said more uncertainty lay ahead for investors during elections, currently scheduled for September and in which the president promised neither he or his son would run.
“The only prediction I have is that this will be a completely new event, an election we have never seen before,” Rachid said. “That’s the only certainty we have so far.”