The Arab League Summit to be held within days in Sharm El-Sheikh, will focus on counter-terrorism and Arab national security due to the escalation of terrorist attacks in the region, said Ambassador Gamal Bayoumi, General Secretary of the Arab Investors Union.In his interview with the Daily News Egypt, Bayoumi said that the league’s focus on the joint Arab effort towards fighting terrorism is the basis for a joint Arab commercial and economic cooperation.
Regarding the observers’ concerns about the dwindling Arab region share in the international investments chip, due to the political instability that prevailed in the Arab Spring countries, Bayoumi said that there’s no need to worry.
Egypt has a diversified economy and a good investment return in addition to the legislative amendments that would reassure business communities, local and international, he assured.
How do you see the upcoming summit hosted in Sharm El-Sheikh?
The Arab Summit comes during a critical time where the spring countries face instability and insecurity. I think what will prevail in this league will be the Syrian, Iraqi, Libyan, Palestinian and Yemeni files instead of commerce and economy, in addition to the joint Arab cooperation.
The league will work on finding definitive and actual solutions for Arab nation issues especially when it comes to security, as a step towards enhancing the joint Arab action.
Don’t you think that the deterioration of the economic situation in Arab countries has fed political turmoil?
I absolutely agree with you. The coming league is one of the most important Arab summits especially for the time it is held in and the targets assigned to it. It also carries the Arab national security, fighting terrorism and the elimination of extreme currents groups.
The economic reform in Arab countries is never separated from the fight against terrorism. I believe the opposite is true; the deterioration of economic conditions plays a significant role in the growth of terrorism which is currently haunting the region.
How can political instability affect the activity of companies especially the intercontinental ones?
Political turmoil certainly does not attract investors. In fact, it is repellent to already established investments, but the efforts of the structural economic reform undertaken by several governments, beginning with Egypt and followed by Tunisia, would help alleviate the concerns of international companies and attract new capital as well.
The biggest proof to that is the confidence of not only the world international finance and business, but also the leaders in Egypt. This was represented in their presence in the economic conference and their pledge to pump new capital into the country, as a result of their faith in serious reform in addition to the fact that the climate of investment in Egypt is currently stable.
Do you think that Egypt is moving towards a stable political environment that would meet the Egyptians’ aspirations?
Unfortunately, Egypt doesn’t have strong political parties that practice political action. I believe that the next parliament will not meet the aspirations of the people as the current parties are not very popular. However, Egypt is used to working only in the presence of a compatible commander who’s currently available.
The last two revolutions tried to prevent Egypt from falling into autocracy to be ruled by democracy. Unfortunately, resistance was intense; Egyptians are used to working under a leadership, regardless of the rest of institutions. The international companies paid attention to this, and these companies related pumping investments to the sustainability of the regime and the popularity of this regime.
The dream of the Arab Common Market did not come true, why?
The Arab intra-regional trade is weak, and untill now it did not exceed 20%. The reasons are structural. Exports of all the Arab countries are oil products, what does not provide co-operational atmosphere, and 60% from the Arab imports are produced by the rest of the Arab countries.
What I mentioned was an introduction to evaluate the Arab common cooperation. Now we already achieved one-third of an Arab common market, but we need the leadership to be more serious, concerning four issues, in order to enhance the Arab economic cooperation: liberalisation of the goods and service trade, liberalisation of the individual’s movement, especially diplomats, businessmen, investors. Moreover, we need to exempt them from visas. Third is the liberalisation of the capital movement and implementing customs unification through exempting customs for all traded products, in the Arab market. All this requires a great effort to unify customs and reduce it in order to enhance the Arab common cooperation.
What kind of support does the Arab Investors Union offer to the Arab spring countries, especially Egypt?
We generally present the advantages, atmosphere and investment revenues in the Arab countries, through local and international visits, as well as discussions which have been held the past four years. We cannot deny the obvious obstacles like, the visa issues and the movement of individuals. We indeed face obstacles that prevent the Arab investments from growing; these obstacles include visa issues.
Despite all problems and obstacles that the Egyptian economy faces, are you optimistic about the economic future for Egypt?
Yes, concerning the increase of the national income, Egypt is considered the third country, after Saudi Arabia and the UAE. It has a lot of resources which do not exist in other Arab countries, including oil. The presence of a strong accepted leadership is a must to maintain stability in the Arab region.
The Arab League will be held shortly after the successful Economic Summit, held in Sharm El-Sheikh. The Economic Summit revealed the strong intention to develop the Egyptian economy in the next period. This development will surely enable Egypt to support the stability of the Arab and regional countries.
When will the economic development, implemented by the actual ruling regimes, benefit the Arab citizen?
After the structural reform for the Egyptian economy and the Economic Summit, the working class in Egypt will reap the benefits in short terms. We here are speaking about workers; the rest of the citizens will reap benefits in the long term. On the other hand, the infrastructure projects, announced in the Economic Summit, will refresh the economy, which will be an advantage to all citizens, raise the demand and consuming rates and increase the rates of production and operations.
Concerning the rest of the Arab countries, due to the political disturbance, it is still vague. Arab leaders should pacify the political situation in order for the production cycle to regain its strength and in order for people to experience economic and social security.