Election postponement disrupts Egypt's economic development conference

Election postponement disrupts Egypt's economic development conference
Analysis: The decision to postpone parliamentary elections is likely to affect an upcoming development conference and any investments to be announced there.
3 min read
02 March, 2015
The Supreme Constitutional Court has declared Article 3 of the new election law invalid [AFP]
The upcoming Economic Development Conference (EDC) has been upset by the postponement of Egypt's parliamentary elections originally scheduled for the third week of March. The EDC is to be held in Sharm al-Sheikh from 13 to 15 March.

The Supreme Elections Committee's deferred the date Sunday after the Supreme Constitutional Court declared Article 3 of the new election law invalid.

In public, Egyptian government officials said the conference would not be affected. In private, however, some conceded that that is almost inevitable.

Economists and businessmen, meanwhile, told al-Araby al-Jadeed the poll postponement would have a negative impact because international companies, institutions and governments would suspend investments until a parliament had been elected. Gulf investors, however, are expected to participate in the conference.

     International companies, institutions and governments will suspend investments until a parliament had been elected.

"Some countries and international economic organisations have said they will not attend the conference without assurances of an elected parliament able to manage their financial investments," one government source told al-Araby al-Jadeed on condition of anonymity.

Supply and Internal Trade Minister Khaled Hanafy has said parliament would not be "rushed" into convincing investors to participate in the conference, and argued postponing elections sent a positive message that Egypt was on the right track.

The minister said over 4,500 attendees were expected at the conference. They include heads of states and governments; representatives of international and regional institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, the Arab Monetary Fund, and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development in Kuwait; as well as representatives of foreign companies and investors.

Hanafy said his ministry had prepared for the conference by initiating two projects: a global logistics centre for handling and storing grain and food commodities in Damietta, a port city in northern Egypt, that began in October 2014; and the Suez Canal Corridor Area Project that was launched in August 2014 to increase the role of the Suez Canal region in international trade.

Mohammad al-Bahi, chair of the taxes committee in the Federation of Egyptian Industries said postponing elections would negatively affect the conference [Ar], because foreign investors would not invest in an economically and politically unstable country.

Deputy Chairman of the General Federation of the Egyptian Chamber of Commerce Mohammad al-Masry, told al-Araby al-Jadeed that while postponing the elections would dissuade European and US investors, it would not discourage those from those Gulf countries - especially the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait - that support Egypt [Ar].

Fakhry al-Fiqi, former assistant executive director at the IMF, predicted international financial institutions and governments would suspend their investments in Egypt until after a parliament is elected.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.