Alluding to Sawiris, Sisi responds to accusations of government and army companies monopolizing the economy

Cairo – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi commented on what was raised recently about the government and army companies crowding out the private sector in a way that creates unfair competition between the two sectors. 11 billion pounds annually during the past seven years (a dollar equals 15.75 pounds).

This came during Sisi’s inauguration yesterday, Wednesday, of the gasoline production complex at the Assiut Petroleum Refining Company in Assiut Governorate in Upper Egypt, where he said that “the private sector is a key partner in development and has a pivotal role and we seek to increase it,” indicating his appreciation for what is said in this regard, as well as his appreciation The good intentions of the owners.

Al-Sisi’s speech is the first indirect official response to the statements of the Egyptian billionaire and businessman Naguib Sawiris, which he made about a month ago and sparked great controversy, as he spoke about the inability of the private sector to compete with state and army companies, which own the majority of projects.

Although Sisi did not mention the name of the company “Orascom” owned by the Sawiris family, many of those who followed his speech did not need much speculation to know that the purpose of the talk was to refute Sawiris’ statements.

Sisi and Orascom

During the same session, Sisi was keen to show the extent of the participation of private companies in the new projects implemented by the state, and asked the Minister of Transport and Communications Kamel Al-Wazir to enumerate these companies.

The minister – who was a former officer in the army – picked up the thread from Sisi, stressing that government companies cannot implement development projects on their own, explaining that all projects implemented by the Ministry of Transport involve only 3 government companies, while the rest of the companies are from the private sector, according to saying.

The minister mentioned the names of many large private sector companies, and when he did not mention the name of the “Orascom Construction” company that Sisi apparently wanted to mention, he re-mentioned the names of more and interrupted him, adding and “Orascom”, the minister noticed and added, “Of course, Orascom is at its head.” He means at the head of the private sector companies that the authority allows them to work on state projects.

Al-Sisi’s comments – through which he was keen to deny the suspicion of the government and army monopolizing the Egyptian economy – received a wide response, both from critics and supporters of Sawiris’ statements he made to a foreign news agency.

Sawiris criticizes the army’s interventions

The story began at the end of last November, when Sawiris said during an interview with Agence France-Presse, “The (Egyptian) state should be a regulator, not an owner” of economic activity, adding that “government-owned or military-affiliated companies do not pay taxes or customs.” This makes the competition unfair from the start.

Since Sisi took power in 2014, the army’s economy has achieved remarkable growth, as it has been entrusted with many projects, and accordingly it establishes partnerships with private sector companies to participate in the implementation, including Orascom Construction, owned by the Sawiris family.

Sawiris stressed, “There is still competition from the government, so foreign investors are a bit afraid. I myself will not run offers when I see government companies,” as “the playing field is no longer equal.”

Mass attack on Sawiris

Although these statements were not the first in which Sawiris criticized the interference of the Egyptian government and army companies in the private sector in a way that creates unfair competition between the two sectors, media professionals, journalists and politicians close to the regime launched a sharp attack on the Egyptian billionaire.

The attack did not stop at criticizing Sawiris’ statements, but went beyond them to taking one of his projects as a platform to attack him, as the media Ahmed Moussa launched a sharp attack on Sawiris, stressing that he collected all his money from investing in Egypt, and even confirmed during the presentation of his program “On My Responsibility” on the channel Sada Al-Balad affirmed that he was the person who made the most money in Egypt from 2014 to 2021, expressing his sadness for distorting his image.

As for the Egyptian MP and media figure, Mustafa Bakri, he was more direct in criticizing Sawiris through a series of tweets on Twitter. He described his talk about the army crowding out the private sector as words that lack objectivity and credibility, noting that the private sector has a major role in the development process, and the biggest evidence of this is the participation of Sawiris companies with the state and the armed forces.

Bakri called on the Egyptian businessman, Sawiris, to stop questioning and incitement against the state and to deliberately abuse the role of the armed forces in development, because the army produces and manufactures for the benefit of the Egyptian people. .

Days after the mass attack, some local websites quoted Sawiris as saying during the “Rise up” conference – which was held in front of the Giza pyramids – “I am now on my way to the pension, and negative comments in the recent period do not affect me,” noting that He will now devote himself to his personal life after his son, “Onsi” took over the business of his companies, and revealed that he had no desire to enter into any new investments during the coming period.

The reality of the military monopoly

Despite repeated denials of the army companies’ control over the joints of the economy, many economic reports in major foreign websites, periodicals and newspapers confirmed the opposite. For example, but not limited to, the American Bloomberg Opinion website mentioned in May 2020 that many government incentives based on Debts, especially in infrastructure and housing, were directed towards the military’s economic institutions.

The website indicated that the military companies have benefited from many privileges, such as exemption from taxes and customs duties imposed on private companies, in order to expand at the expense of private sector actors.

Bloomberg: The Egyptian army monopolizes the market, and confronting Corona needs economic reforms

On March 26, 2020, he indicated An article by the Carnegie Middle East Center He pointed out that “during Sisi’s era, the army’s economic empire increased, and it is now working in the dairy, medicine and transportation trade, and it has started supervising about 2,300 projects in which 5 million civil employees work in the field of heavy and specialized industries, agriculture, fish farms, quarries, mines, contracting, infrastructure and other projects.” According to the military spokesman for the armed forces, Colonel Tamer Al-Rifai.

And in October 2019, the French newspaper Le Monde said that the Egyptian army had tightened its control over many economic sectors since Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi took power, causing an imbalance in the entire economy and prompting businessmen to break their silence.

The newspaper stressed – in a report by writer Helen Salon – that Sisi and the army did not show tolerance for any criticism in this regard, yet allegations spread within Egyptian and foreign business circles against the army, as an actor imposing unfair competition, and condoning the risks faced by some projects. .

Le Monde: The Egyptian army upset the balance of the economy

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