Egyptian businessman says Cairo should fire slack civil servants

SHARM EL-SHEIKH (Reuters) – One of Egypt’s top businessmen said on Saturday the country needs to fire inefficient civil servants to attract investment and strengthen the economy.Speaking at an international investment conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, billionaire Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom TMT Holding, said firm action was needed.”Unfortunately, the structures under the ministers are not working as fast and efficient as our current ministers,” Sawiris told the economic summit.”We’re lucky we have these good performing ministers right now, but some of them are stuck with old management from the past, when we should have fired all the people under them and brought in new ones.”Bureaucracy and a bloated civil service have kept foreign investors away from Egypt, the most populous Arab country.On Thursday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified an amended investment law designed to give foreign investors fearful of red tape a one-stop shop.”We have a silent revolution where economic reform is concerned … we have only had seven months. We have to be more realistic. This economy started to turn around in only seven months,” said Investment Minister Ashraf Salman.But Salman agreed the number of public employees needed to be slashed to one million from seven million currently.”Changing the mindset of all the bureaucracy of Egypt is the challenge,” said Saudi businesswoman Lubna Olayan.Despite the concerns, major companies announced investments during the conference, which Egypt hopes will project an image of stability and improve investor confidence hit by upheaval after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.British energy company BG will invest $4 billion in Egypt over two years, its chief operating officer said.Italian oil major Eni signed memoranda of agreement with Egypt worth $5 billion over four to five years.The United Arab Emirates’ Dana Gas will invest $350 million over 30 months in new development wells, workovers of existing wells, new pipelines and debottling a plant, its chief executive said.PepsiCo will invest $500 million in Egypt this year to expand production, its business unit manager for North East Africa Ahmed El Sheikh told Reuters.Cairo wants to double foreign investment in this fiscal year to $8 billion, despite an Islamist insurgency in northern Sinai and frequent militant attacks across the country.Egyptian authorities have mounted a full-scale advertising offensive, with the conference logo “Egypt the Future” found everywhere from billboards to chocolate bars on flights to Sharm el-Sheikh.In Cairo, the headquarters of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, burned and gutted during the 2011 uprising, is draped with a banner reading “investment is the key to Egypt’s prosperity”.Gulf Arab allies pledged a further $12 billion of investments and deposits at Egypt’s central bank in a big boost to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he tries to reform the economy after years of political upheaval.

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