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Egypt launches business climate index.

CAIRO: Islah, Egypt's first business climate reform index, was launched Monday at a conference that also provided a forum for local business leaders to learn more about the project.

Islah was developed by the Alexandria Business Association (ABA) in partnership with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) with special funding from the government of Switzerland.

Based on data from ABA's member organizations, the index covers 11 areas of business logistics -- everything from licenses to infrastructure -- and assesses qualitative and quantitative aspects of the business climate such as transparency, simplicity of procedures and quality of service at government agencies.

The aim of Islah is to provide a tool for local businesses to use in assessing services and proving feedback to policy makers.

"The index gives us a way to assess the effect reforms are having on the business climate in Egypt. For example, the index found that service in government agencies was not great. Now we can use that information to work with the Ministry of Administrative Development to solve the problem," said Hisham El-Attal, secretary general of the ABA.

El-Attal explained that the importance of the index lies in the fact that it is Egypt-specific and provides a feasible alternative to international reports such as the World Bank's "Doing Business" report, which does not fully address issues on a local level.

The publication of Islah is the first step in what the ABA hopes will be a long-term involvement in dynamic business research. El-Attal and his team are looking to expand data-collection to Cairo and other governorates and to help generate dialogue between the public and private sectors to drive reform.

The signing of a series of memoranda of understanding at the conference cemented ties between the IFC, ABA, and government ministries to ensure future cooperation and progress.

Memoranda were also signed between the ABA and other business associations including the Egyptian Businessmen Association and the Confederation of Egyptian European Business Associations. These agreements will help facilitate data collection and other forms of cooperation with ABA for future reports.

The conference agenda featured speeches by Minister of Investment Mahmoud Mohieldin, Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid and Minister of State for Administrative Development Ahmed Darwish, among others.

The speakers highlighted the importance of the index as a tool for local reform, and pointed to further steps to be taken in the future to expand the scope of the report.

"We are keen on making it easier for businesses to do business," said the IFC's Frank Sader. "By making it easier for businesses to start up and thrive we are helping to create jobs and support development."

Mohamed Ghatwary and Mohamed Hanno gave talks on the methodology and results of the index, explaining key considerations and areas for improvement in future publications.

Despite involvement of international organizations like the IFC in creating the report, throughout the conference emphasis was placed on the Egypt-specific information the index had to offer.

"I'm happy about the fact that this project was driven by local desire to improve the business climate. The result is a report that reflects the concerns and constraints of Egyptian businesses when they are trying to do business in Egypt," said Sader.

Ziad Bahaa El Din, chairman of the board of trustees for the General Authority for Investment and Free Zones, summed up the accomplishments of the first publication of Islah.

"The first report may raise a number of issues by different parties who may agree or disagree on the findings. However, the real benefit to Egypt is not the report's positive or negative results, but that the efforts were exerted, capacity for monitoring and research were established, and that a national organization took the initiative to carry out this task instead of depending on international institutions."

Daily NewsEgypt 2009

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Publication:Daily News Egypt (Egypt)
Date:May 4, 2009
Words:638
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