before a high-profile economic summit last March that sought to paint Egypt in the eyes of the world as a business-friendly nation on the rise, officials hurriedly passed a sweeping new investment law. It includ- ed measures to protect companies from legal challenges and changing govern- ment winds, provide incentives for investment in labor-intensive projects and most importantly, reduce Egypt’s stultifying red tape. More than anything, it aimed to overhaul Egypt’s longstand- ing image as an opaque, labyrinthine bureaucracy. Following the Sharm el- Sheikh shindig, officials triumphantly announced that it had netted the country some $33 billion in private deals. Meanwhile, the new investment law— issued more than six months before Egypt would get around to electing a new Parliament—was trumpeted as “one of the best in the world” by then Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab who, like other officials, repeatedly pointed to FDI as the silver bullet that would revive Egypt’s lagging economy. Less than a year later, however, the so-called invest- ment law has changed precisely nothing, say analysts, who generally agree that the law is “fundamentally flawed,” as economist and former government offi- cial Ziad Bahaa-Eldin succinctly puts it.
From the beginning, the regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has stuck firmly to the conviction that private investment is Egypt’s one and only path to economic solvency, and it has pledged to implement the major government reforms necessary to encourage it. Soon after coming to power, Sisi’s government launched a host of free market, investor- friendly policies. It has promised to do away with wasteful energy subsidies,