ElBaradei unveils own crisis plan for Egypt’s economy

Presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei has outlined a strategy for Egypt's government to follow to lift the country out of economic crisis.

He said the measures included in the crisis plan, which he sent to incumbent Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri on 15 December 2011, would help attract investments, boost production, provide job opportunities and partially achieve the desired social justice in the short term.

The plan suggests the implementation of a national investment program targeting public utilities and housing as means to energize the labor-intensive construction sector and enhance the infrastructure of underprivileged areas.

This program would include the expansion of sanitary drainage networks (a major demand for the most impoverished villages), completing the installation of the natural gas network, cleaning canals and ditches, building water leverage stations, constructing Nile bridges in Upper Egypt, and renovating and maintaining major roads, flyovers and seaports.

The plan also calls for establishing an Egyptian industries financing fund in collaboration with public sector banks. This, the plan says, would help reactivate more than 500 medium-sized plants that are inoperative or face closure for financial and administrative reasons.

This step suggests dialogue between factory owners and the government over national industry needs for the current period.

The strategy proposes tax exemptions and incentives for a maximum of two years for new investments in labor-intensive projects that begin operations within the next few months. He also suggests incentives for small and medium-sized enterprises in a bid to boost employment, labor training, and export rates.

The strategy recommends the removal of bureaucratic and administrative hurdles so as to encourage Egyptian and Arab investors to operate in Egypt on the short term, which will, in turn, energize production, raise employment rates and pump in hard currency.

Also necessary, as part of the plan, is activating, financing and restructuring the Social Fund for Development, which provides youths with loans, training and support for launching small projects — one of the most important sources for economic growth and employment. 

ElBaradei also proposes setting minimum and maximum limits for wages in all government institutions as a response to employees' demands and as means to avoid more strikes and enhance purchasing power in the local market. He recommends dialogue between employers, workers and the government about workers' demands to avoid strikes and keep the wheel of production moving.

The crisis plan recommends restructuring farmers' medium debts, exempting farmers from cumulative debt interests, granting tax exemptions for farmers' small loans, ending prison penalties for debt failures, and opening channels of dialogue between laborers and the government.

The Supreme Council of Investments must be activated, the plan says. This would help remove investment hurdles and provide safeguards for the implementation of major, earnest projects that are currently stalled, but involve investments of more than LE1 billion. The step would require coordination between the ruling military council, the government, and relevant ministers and governors.

A focus on developing tourism from emerging world powers, such as China, would provide Egypt's tourism sector with new unfamiliar markets, the plan says.

This focus could be accompanied by the offering of more than one license for low-price aviation from the Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh airports, supported by investment incentives and temporary concessions for landing and parking fees. The strategy notes that such measures would mark an end to the domination of foreign charter airlines on the aviation market.

ElBaradei also recommends adding at least 2,500 locally-made public transport buses, running on natural gas, to the existing fleet in Egyptian cities. He suggests that this would stimulate the local transport industry, enhance service and reduce pollution and traffic congestion.

The plan recommends that the government set priorities for the transitional period, which should include enhancing the investment environment and releasing stalled factory and construction licenses and land allocations so business owners can continue operating and provide job opportunities, especially in vital sectors such as housing and industry.

Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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