SHARM EL-SHEIKH - One of Egypt's top businessmen said on Saturday the country needs to fire inefficient civil servants in order to attract investment and strengthen the economy.
Speaking at an international investment conference in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, billionaire Naguib Sawiris, chairman of Orascom TMT Holding, said firm action was needed.
"Unfortunately, the structures under the ministers are not working as fast and efficient as our current ministers," Sawiris told the economic summit.
"We're lucky we have these good performing ministers right now but some of them are stuck with old management from the past when we should have fired all the people under them and brought in new ones."
Bureaucracy and a bloated civil service have kept foreign investors away from Egypt, the most populous Arab country.
On Thursday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ratified an amended investment law designed to give foreign investors fearful of red tape a one-stop shop.
"We have a silent revolution where economic reform is concerned ... we have only had seven months. We have to be more realistic. This economy started to turn around in only seven months," said Investment Minister Ashraf Salman.
But Salman agreed the number of public employees needed to be slashed to one million from seven million currently.
"Changing the mindset of all the bureaucracy of Egypt is the challenge," said Saudi businesswoman Lubna Olayan.
Despite those concerns, major companies announced investments during the conference, which Egypt hopes will project an image of stability and improve investor confidence hit by upheaval after the fall of veteran ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Italian oil major Eni signed heads of agreement with the Egypt worth US$5 billion over 4-5 years.
PepsiCo will invest US$500 million in Egypt this year to expand production, its business unit manager for North East Africa Ahmed El Sheikh told Reuters.
Cairo wants to double foreign investment in this fiscal year to $8 billion, despite an Islamist insurgency in northern Sinai and frequent militant attacks across the country.
Gulf Arab allies pledged a further US$12 billion of investments and deposits at Egypt's central bank in a big boost to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as he tries to reform the economy after years of political upheaval.
General Electric said on Friday it would invest US$200 million in Egypt.