Caixin
Mar 07, 2014 05:52 PM

Egypt's Road to Rejuvenation Is Opening, Veteran Diplomat Says


(Cairo) – Amr Moussa is one of Egypt's most senior career diplomats. In the Mubarak era, Moussa briefly served as the Egyptian ambassador to the United Nations, and was foreign minister for a decade until 2001. After this, he was elected secretary-general of the Arab League, serving from 2001 until 2011.

In 2011, Moussa, 77, ran in the presidential election against Mohamed Morsi, finishing fifth. In an interview with Caixin, Moussa said that he repeatedly suggested to Morsi ways to revive the economy. This included encouraging China and various other developed and developing countries to seek investment opportunities in the country. However, the Morsi administration was short-lived.

After the Morsi government was ousted by the military in July 2013, Moussa again returned to Egypt's mainstream political circles. In September he was appointed president of the Committee of 50 that sought to amend the nation's constitution. The new constitution was put to the people in the form of a referendum in January, and was approved by 98 percent of voters.

Moussa believes the new constitutes differs significantly from its two predecessors, devised in 1971 and 2012. He said the failure of the past two constitutions was in their rejection of the Egyptian peoples' need for "dignity and freedom." In a New York Times op-ed, published on January 8, Moussa explained: "The 2012 Constitution was rushed through by a single dominating political faction and answered only to its priorities."

In February, Moussa granted an interview to Caixin at his office in Cairo, sharing his views relating to how Egypt can revitalize itself after years of political turmoil. Excerpts of that interview follow.

Caixin: Widespread civil conflict remains a risk in Egypt today, and daily clashes continue between the Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the army. If you were an international investor or tourist, what would convince you to come back to Egypt?

Amr Moussa: We cannot leave the country in the grip of any groups that resort to violence and terrorism. The government should work on returning investment to the country and promoting tourism. This cannot be done if the security situation does not stabilize.

Egypt is vast and not all of it is suffering from escalating tensions that have plagued some cities in the past months. There are many places, such as Luxor and Aswan, that have not witnessed any clashes. These areas remain tourist favorites, despite witnessing a small dip from pre-revolution levels.

As the roadmap of elections proceeds, we expect stability over the next six months, and in my view, this will be a major catalyst for investors. The security situation will gradually come under control, and investment is bound to pick up. As the most populous Arab country, Egypt offers attractive opportunities, especially in industry and construction.

A good economic plan the government could put forward would include major protects like the north-south highway and the Suez Canal development. These projects would attract investments from Asia, not only the West. That's why Asia and China in particular would have a stake in Egypt regaining its role as a regional stabilizer.

Egypt has now received over US$ 15 billion in aid from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, shoring up foreign exchange reserves and helping defend the currency. How can the economy become more self-sustainable?

For Egypt to embark on a more sustainable economic path, good governance is crucial. This has always been a weakness. But we are hoping that this time around, it will be different. Hopefully the next government will be fully invested in its executive powers and will prioritize what to tackle.

At the moment we are short of money, and stability is a very thorny issue, which is why GCC aid is essential. I suggested several months ago, when Dr. Morsi was president, that Egypt needs an international investor conference to revive its economic power. That would include the IMF, World Bank, G8, GCC, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, China, etc.

These entities can add to the viability of the Egyptian economy by working together to open the vistas of opportunities for investors. We will certainly not boycott the IMF. We simply need to ensure our priorities are in place and work with them accordingly.

You are now supporting the candidacy of Field Marshal Abdulfattah el-Sisi. How is the he better suited to the position?

In my view, the popular appeal, support, confidence and trust that the Egyptian people have shown in their dealings with Field Marshal Sisi are the principle reasons I have decided to support his candidacy.

As Egyptians, we ask ourselves, can we afford to suffer from mismanagement and bad governance again? The answer is no, we cannot and will not afford that. This is why there is a general belief that Field Marshal Sisi is the most suited to lead our country through this transitional period.

How would you describe the state of democracy in Egypt, particularly given the extended influence of the military in institutions?

Field Marshal Sisi is going to run for presidency as a civilian. This is not the first time that retired military generals have run for presidential office, in Egypt or around the world.

As Egyptians, we are supporting Field Marshal Sisi to run for president within the confines of the new constitution, which, to put things in perspective, limits presidential powers.

Additionally, former president Hosni Mubarak ruled under different circumstances. If Field Marshal Sisi comes to power, it would be after two street revolutions that overthrew two presidents within three years. This is a new era, one in which the Egyptian people will no longer tolerate oppression.

Historically, Egypt has been a powerbroker. This role has been lessened since the revolution as Egypt deals with its domestic disputes. Where do you see Egypt's regional and international role over the next couple of years?

The Arab world today needs Egypt. As soon as the country is back on a track of economic revival and the constitution is fully in place, Egypt's role will be resumed regionally.

What is your view on the progressing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program? Is the time right to remove sanctions?

The international community seems to have decided that the time is right to start discussing a gradual removal of sanctions, of course, within an internationally agreed framework.

Where are Egypt's relationships with the West headed given tensions with the United States and recently Turkey?

As for relations with the West, I have always been an advocate of good ties on an equal footing. Despite some problems at the moment, the best course is to work with countries such as the United States, Turkey or any others to safeguard dignity, mutual interests and good relations.

This also applies to countries in the East. Special attention was always given to China. All deals that were signed by the previous regimes of former presidents Mubarak and Morsi will remain enforce.

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