Egypt at a discount?

Al Jazeera’s Senior Political Analyst Marwan Bishara talks about the key investment summit in Sharm el-Sheikh.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
The General-cum-President has been trying to gain international legitimacy ever since his 2013 coup d'état [Reuters]

The opening of Egypt’s economic conference has gone rather well for President Sisi. But will the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh also prove helpful for Egypt and everyday Egyptians?

The general-cum-president has been trying to gain international legitimacy ever since his coup d’état in the summer of 2013.

On Friday he received a huge push. The attendance of two dozen heads of states, tens of officials and over two thousand investors is de facto recognition of the Sisi regime by the international community.

Notable is the attendance of the Gulf leaders, led by Saudi Arabia that initiated the conference and the United Arab Emirates that spearheaded its organisation – helping encourage others to attend. Saudi, UAE and Kuwait have already committed $4bn each to Sisi during the conference.

Likewise, the presence of US Secretary of State John Kerry and IMF head Christine Lagarde provided Sisi with the needed western and international diplomatic backing.

But what does it all mean to Omar the Plumber (to borrow an American term)? President Sisi and his guests have made some lofty promises about growth, employment and many benefits to everyday Egyptians, but these wishes could also prove mere wishful thinking.

Egyptian Investment Minister, Ashraf Salman, has emphasised that his government will reduce production costs to encourage investment. This means lower taxes for local and foreign corporations, lower wages, and lower subsidies for the poor and working families, among other changes.

It’s common sense that encouraging quick foreign investment in a country that ranks one of the lowest in the world in terms of stability, infrastructure and technology, means selling Egyptian public assets and offering new projects at a discount.

But Sisi needed to rush new legislation to encourage foreign investment without even the existence of a legislator, let alone an elected one, in order to shore up support for his regime.

And that he did.

Source: Al Jazeera