Interview: Exploring new avenues to enhance bilateral trade: Egyptian ambassador

Said Hindam talks on challenges in trade, economy Egypt and <br /> Pakistan face.

Maha Mussadaq June 30, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Over the past three years, the volume of trade between Pakistan and Egypt may have increased, but the results were unsatisfactory considering the potential, said the Arab Republic of Egypt’s ambassador, Said Hindam.

The Egyptian government was focusing on improving the economy. Egypt has always been supportive of Pakistan and efforts are ongoing to increase trade between the two, Hindam said in an interview with The Express Tribune.

Hindam said that a recent mission to Pakistan has explored many new products to increase the trade.

Tardy trade

Egypt recently faced a problem in importing wheat from Pakistan as the quality of wheat did not meet Egyptian standards. However, there has been an effort to explore other sectors such as meat.

Recent meetings with various chambers of commerce will result in adding new sectors to the export list, he hoped.

Speaking about some traditional trade sectors, he said that while the import of seafood items and surgical equipment from Pakistan had increased, sports goods exports had decreased.

“We are looking into how we can revive the sports sector,” he said. Egypt was also exploring the possibility of filling trade gaps with special products of cement to diversify investment by showing interest in the field of real estate in Pakistan.

“I have personally overviewed all the upcoming potential privatisation projects in Pakistan to propose for Egyptian groups especially in field of energy, renewable energy and mining.

War wear

“When Pakistan succeeds in its war against terror, the rate of return on investment will skyrocket,” he hoped.

Hindam, who has been Eqypt’s ambassador to Pakistan for the past three years, said that while Pakistan was struggling in its war against terror, the recent attack at the Peshawar airport raises concerns over the prevailing security situation in the country.

He said while non-state actors were playing their part in successfully trying to isolate Pakistan, this was a matter of concern for foreign investors. “This is not the first time an airport has come under attack in Pakistan. It has become difficult to convince [investors].”

Journalists’ saga

Speaking on the Al-Jazeera English journalists accused of illegally gathering media materials, manipulating them and producing fabricated scenes of events in Egypt, he said that the journalists were using unlicensed communication by recording, broadcasting and transmitting to Al-Jazeera in order to assist a terrorist organisation with an aim to destabilising Egypt.

“I am very sad to not see the real story in the papers. Everyone is worried about the ruling of the court without understanding the crime that has been committed,” he said, adding, “The penalty is according to the law.”

The media has a responsibility and the right to information is the right of every citizen, however, when “criminals inject wrong information disrupting peace and security of a country, they should be stopped, confronted and penalised”, he said.

The countries from which the journalists hail have requested explanations, but none of them have spoken about the crime, he added.

Change at helm

On the current political dynamics, Hindam said that for the last few years, Egypt has been struggling to stabilise the country and meeting the aspirations of the people. He said the country has suffered tremendous economic brunt especially with a complete stop in tourism.  He said the new president has promised to deliver fast on security and stability of the country and there is a lot of hope.

The people have asked for their rights including increase in wages and higher socio-security allowances and as well as those who are working as contractual employees with the government to become permanent employees. Productivity has been hit strongly whereby the export capacity has diminished and a lot of capital flew out of the country due to the state of uncertainty, according to the ambassador.

New projects have been executed, especially in infrastructure. The government is capitalising on the Egyptian genius attracting foreign investment through calculated efforts that create more job opportunities.

“The challenge is huge. The government needs a lot of public support for such a demand, and the new president is putting all his weight and popularity behind the plans to lift Egypt out of poverty,” he remarked.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2014.


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