3 Gulf nations pledge billions to Egypt at conference

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — Egypt's Gulf Arab allies promised it $12 billion in new investment and aid on Friday, as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi opened an international conference to promote an ambitious recovery plan for his country's ailing economy.

Speaking to an assembly of businessmen, royals, heads of state and international officials, el-Sissi depicted Egypt as vital to Mideast stability and a bulwark against Islamic militancy, making his case that the country needs world backing to rebuild an economy devastated by four years of turmoil.

He said his recovery plan aims to achieve at least six percent annual growth in GDP within the next five years, up from about 2 percent currently, and reduce inflation to about 10 percent. He also promised fair taxation and lower inflation.

The Emir of Kuwait, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the ruler of the prosperous emirate of Dubai attended the opening the session in the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. Also on hand were the kings of Bahrain and Jordan, the Palestinian President as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, who addressed the gathering after el-Sissi, announced that his oil-rich nation would invest $4 billion in Egypt. He gave no details. The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Muqrin, announced another $4 billion in an aid package.

The prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced $4 billion in aid, including a $2 billion deposit in the central bank.

The pledges continue a flow of largesse that has come from the three Gulf Arab nations ever since Egypt's military, then led by el-Sissi, ousted the elected president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, in July 2013. More than 20 billion dollars from the three nations since then have kept Egypt's economy afloat.

El-Sissi, who was elected last year in a landslide victory, used the gathering to emphasize what he called Egypt's uncompromising stand against Islamic militancy and terrorism as well its non-aggressive foreign policy and respect for its neighbor.

"Egypt has and will always be the first line of defense against the dangers faced by the region," said el-Sissi, wearing a dark suit and a purple tie. He was repeatedly interrupted with applause.

"You will find Egypt safe and secure," el-Sissi told the delegates, alluding to his government's battling against a burgeoning Islamic insurgency which has lately shifted focus to a campaign of small bombings targeting local and foreign business interests in Cairo and other cities.

He concluded his 26-minute speech with what has by now become his trademark slogan of "long live Egypt!"