In Egypt Egypt billionaire says "stagnation" stops him investing

The chairman and chief executive of Orascom Telecom, Media and Technology, blamed bureaucracy and middle-level officials in Egypt for what he called "stagnation".

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Billionaire Egyptian businessman, Naguib Sawiris play

Billionaire Egyptian businessman, Naguib Sawiris

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One of Egypt's wealthiest businessmen said he had not invested any of the $500 million he pledged to his country in March because of the slow pace of reforms promised by the government.

Naguib Sawiris, who has made an eye-catching but as yet unanswered offer to buy an island from Greece or Italy to house refugees from wars in the Middle East, said he had invested "zero" in Egypt since an upbeat investment summit in March.

The chairman and chief executive of Orascom Telecom, Media and Technology, blamed bureaucracy and middle-level officials in Egypt for what he called "stagnation".

"Many of these ministers are really good guys but they have a second line that is blocking them and it is the same second line that has been there for 30 years," Sawiris told Reuters in an interview, referring to deputy ministers.

"Some of these ministers are blocking each other and then the central bank has a policy and the government has another policy. It is not coordinated."

In contrast, he said, at Orascom non-performers are quickly rooted out and are "on the street looking for a new job".

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"You punish and you reward. Where is this in the government? The mentality of appeasement won't get you anywhere," Sawiris said in his office in a commercial tower overlooking the Nile.

In August, Orascom Telecom Media and Technology Holding reported second-quarter net profit of 353.95 million Egyptian pounds ($45.20 million) versus 351.68 million a year earlier.

But Sawiris expects zero growth for his company this year because he said it had not invested in new projects. At the Red Sea summit in March he had said it would add infrastructure, logistics and energy projects to its core business.

Egypt's growth slowed in the chaotic aftermath of the overthrow of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

It has picked up under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army general who oversaw the ouster of Egypt's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Mursi, in 2013 but analysts expect it to be below the 5 percent official forecast.

Sawiris, from a powerful Coptic Christian family, said the tourism-dependent economies of Egypt and Tunisia had been devastated by militancy linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State and the groups would create more refugees from Syria and Iraq.

The west needed a stronger response. "You kill, you get killed. Nothing else."

He said he had formalised his offer to Greece and Italy on Monday to sell him an island where he could create a refuge for some of the hundreds of thousands of people trying to reach Europe. Neither country has shown any sign of taking the offer up since he first broadcast it on social media last week.

"All I am asking is find me an island, I will make the financial payment for it," said Sawiris, adding that images of the desperate prompted him to act.

"Enough is enough," he said. "... these people are being treated in the end like cattle."

Sawiris said he himself had received threats from groups like Islamic State and that police had arrested militants who had his name written on a document.

But he has no plans to leave Egypt.

"I will push them away before they push me away," he said. ($1 = 7.8300 Egyptian pounds)

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