In part II of Al-Masry Al-Youm’s interview with Military Production Minister Sayed Mashaal he talks about his ministry’s involvement in a number of issues affecting Egypt, such as the power cuts, water issues and bread as well as the ministry’s armaments production.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: Where does Egypt stand regarding armaments productions?
Sayed Mashaal: We are in a good position regarding armaments production. In the past 10 years, great developments have been made. The Ministry’s annual plan had LE4 billion worth in productions with 40 percent of it in civilian productions. The military sector has a number of factories, including those involved in heavy artillery productions such as tanks, radars, wireless equipment and other military technology, and many of these factories have been renovated. Factories located in metropolitan areas will be relocated. We have two complexes now, one for production of all kinds of light, medium and heavy artillery and a second complex for the production of chemicals used as precursors to explosive devices, both which have been completed.
Al-Masry: Do you have a specific plan set in place?
Mashaal: The ministry’s time plan is due to end in 2014. We produce armaments and munitions for the armed forces and the Ministry of Interior.
Al-Masry: Are we now self-sufficient in arms productions with the technology we have?
Mashaal: The arms race is a complicated matter. There is no country in the world that is self-sufficient. All countries that produce weaponry, including those that produce personal weapons, use components produced elsewhere. So there is nothing called self-sufficient, but we do have production capabilities to produce certain kinds of weapons. This capability depends on the exchange of technologies and the import of equipments and machines. The whole world is one small village and anyone can purchase their needs from anywhere else in the world.
Al-Masry: Can Egypt compete in the world arms market?
Mashaal: The selling of arms is governed by rules and regulations and it has consequences, meaning we must ask ourselves who are we going to sell to and why? It is also governed by political considerations. Selling of arms has its limitations but this doesn’t mean we do not sell. We do, but only to certain countries according to political considerations.
Al-Masry: Where does Egypt stand in the race to own new weaponry and development of nuclear capabilities?
Mashaal: We are on our way to possessing peaceful nuclear energy, as owning nuclear weapons is bound by restraints and has its problems. Countries that own nuclear weapons have many problems. Take Iran for instance, which now has many enemies because of them. President Mubarak has on various occasions called for a nuclear free zone in the Middle East, so how can we develop nuclear weapons? Egypt has never had this direction but if the regional situation evolves, the arms race will not be unproblematic.
Al-Masry: What about the civil sector?
Mashaal: Forty percent of military production this year concerned the civil sector at a cost of nearly LE2 billion. This included the production of 40 trains, recycling factories, trash incinerators, calculators for the Ministry of Education, water purification plants, sewage treatment plants, and fire trucks for the Ministry of Civil Defense.
Al-Masry: What role does the ministry play with regards to the various problems such as the power and water crises and the wheat crisis?
Mashaal: During the bread crisis we built a number of bread baking complexes in every governorate in Egypt, each of which is capable of baking one million loaves of bread daily. We also established factories that generate school meals for schoolchildren. We have also been in cooperation with the Ministry of Electricity to establish small power plants that can produce 2.5 megawatts of electricity, for use in small villages or during times of crisis. We also provide all of the aerial cables used by the Ministry of Electricity.
Al-Masry: What about the water cuts?
Mashaal: We are building a number of water purification and treatment plants. We have already built 220 water treatment plants and 50 sewage treatment plants in cooperation with the Ministry of Housing.
Al-Masry: Although you referred to the ministry’s role in the civilian sector, the ministry’s appliances do not show up as often as they used to in Egyptian homes, why is that?
Mashaal: We used to be the only ones in the market but now, after the private sector entered into the market, most home appliances are produced by them.
Al-Masry: Does that mean your products are no longer on the market?
Mashaal: We are not out of the market; all home appliances that are produced by the ministry are available in the market. We have developed our refrigerator production and renewed our production line. However, there is high demand for such appliances and we also have a high export rate. We have limited television set production as there are many companies that produce them, therefore our production is limited and of low cost to the Egyptian consumer. We do not wish to increase our production in this field to allow the private sector to flourish.
Translated from the Arabic Edition.