The Daily Star (Lebanon)

Egypt minister: No threats attached to China investment­s

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NUSA DUA, Indonesia: Egypt is only accepting Chinese investment­s in projects that are mutually beneficial, its investment minister said Sunday, amid growing skepticism in some countries about risks tied to ‘Belt and Road’ investment­s.

The Belt and Road initiative is an ambitious plan to expand the trade corridor for the Asian giant to link Asia, Europe and Africa, pumping credit into building roads, railways and ports in a trillion-dollar infrastruc­ture drive.

Egypt and China had signed deals worth $18 billion as part of the Belt and Road initiative, Investment and Internatio­nal Cooperatio­n Minister Sahar Nasr said in an interview on the sidelines of the Internatio­nal Monetary FundWorld Bank meetings in Bali.

Nasr said Egypt was only accepting mutually beneficial projects.

“If we have more Chinese industries in Egypt, creating jobs for us, making us less dependent on certain imports and in fact exporting to Europe to Africa, it’s a win-win,” she said.

Nasr said Egypt was taking care to diversify its source of financing, even within the same sector, noting that while China was involved in building a railway, locomotive and train carriages were being sourced from elsewhere.

Malaysia, one of the top recipients of China’s largesse, recently suspended work on a $20 billion rail link between its east and west coasts with the Malaysian prime minister describing terms for the project as “damaging” to its economy.

The Belt and Road initiative has also been met with growing skepticism in countries such as Sri Lanka, which have been saddled with debt that is difficult to repay.

China’s Vice Finance Minister Zou Jiayi Saturday acknowledg­ed debt issues with some of the Belt and Road projects, saying the government would strengthen macro-supervisio­n on the debt sustainabi­lity aspect of its overseas investment­s.

The biggest foreign investors in Egypt are currently European countries, as well as the United States

Nasr said Egypt, which is undertakin­g deep reform after a 2016 deal with the IMF, was a bridge between Asia and Africa due to access to the Suez Canal and trade agreements with the rest of Africa.

She said China’s Belt and Road investment­s included energy projects, a railway, real estate and an oil refinery.

The minister is targeting $10 billion in foreign direct investment in the 2018/19 fiscal year, up from $7.9 billion in the year ended June 2018.

Nasr also said she wants local companies to invest more because “if the foreign investors don’t think the Egyptian investors are confident and reinvestin­g in Egypt it will be very difficult for me to bring in FDI.” –

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