On Nov.19, the Peer Advising Leader (PAL) invited the Governor of the Central Bank of Egypt, Mr. Tarek Amer, to give a talk at Moataz El-Alfy Hall at the American University in Cairo (AUC).
The AUC Dean of students, Dr. George Marquis, gave an opening speech emphasizing the importance of trust and credibility with peers saying that, “once you’ve established yourself wherever you may be, you then need to progress gradually by building a sense of trust and confidence [with peers],” which is what Mr. Amer is in the course of doing.
Mr. Amer began his speech by talking about young people in which he said, “I believe in young people. Throughout my career, it was young people who made my mission successful.” He added on to say that, “young people are making headway, especially with technology. They know what’s happening in the world, their country, and their community.”
Reflecting on his time at AUC, Mr. Amer highlighted that, “what I learned at AUC- the thing that helped me most throughout my life- was the ability to express my opinion openly. I think this was not normal in our community in the 1970s and the 1960s.” He commented on how helpful this skill was by saying that, “challenging myself, challenging the man in front of me and not taking them face value was very important.”
Mr. Amer then moved on to discuss a popular topic: working and living in Egypt vs. working and living abroad. He reflected on how many times he heard people say they want to work abroad and his response was that “the problem is not in the potential of this country or economy. I think the problem was in the way we had handled it.” He engaged the audience by saying, “people like you will be able to make this potential a reality.”
Mr. Amer also addressed the current economic situation of the country, in which he insisted on the concept of self-sufficiency by saying that, “I said we are going to depend on ourselves and not ask for money from our neighbors.” He expressed the importance of survival and asked the question, “are we willing to suffer and withstand difficulties to get better?”
In the end, Mr. Amer stressed how much youth potential, or “Egyptian talent” we all have that makes us special. Moreover, Mr. Amer also mentioned, “when we executed our new program to turn around the situation, the people who worked on this program and communicated with several entities in the world, for example, the International Monetary Fund experts, the World Health experts and with several countries, were young people between the age range of 25-35 and who were working at the Central Bank.”
Following Mr. Amer’s speech, a question-and-answer session was held.
When asked if he had any advice for students who are undecided, Mr. Amer commented, “you have to balance between what you love and how this is going to help you in building your future. What I urge you to do is to get the opinions of those close to you and from seniors. Ask and consult.”
When asked about how individual contribution can help in enhancing the Egyptian economy, Mr. Amer’s reply was, “by spending wisely, by trying to promote local products because we are currently depending on imports and [local products] will bring job opportunities for people and by abiding by the law. Black markets are not an issue in other countries. Here in Egypt, we don’t abide by the law. It is against the law to trade outside the official systems but people still did that. People need to learn to behave as a community and not as individuals. ”
When the question, “how can I be the Governor of the Central Bank?” came up, Mr. Amer answered, “first thing, you have to live within society and understand it. AUC is not Egypt. I tell my children ‘you don’t even read the newspaper!’ You cannot be policymakers when you do not understand the community. One thing that helped me during college was that I used to go to work in areas in Upper Egypt with farmers. I felt I had a cause to represent those people. I don’t want to be Governor for the sake of the position itself but to serve those poor people and because I think I can do something different which might fix things for those people. If you really prove yourself and your words, one day you can be Governor.”
On the topic of the flotation of the pound, Mr. Amer explained that the goal was to “fix the structural imbalances. It was pricing the economy for all the malpractices that happened over the years. We cannot go against the market. We are stabilizing the balance against the market which states that the currency has to depreciate every year by 10 percent, which is the inflation differential between the pound and the dollar. We have to have courage to face this.”
On the technical aspect, Mr. Amer commented that the Central Bank increased interest rates, knowing that this will affect investment negatively because, in fact, “we wanted to reduce investments for this year. For this year, we wanted to decrease spending and we also wanted to decrease GDP. Even though, in reality, this didn’t happen. We wanted to decrease inflation and absorb its effects, which included gas prices. Inflation is not positive for real investment, as this would mean capital would become expensive. The decision to increase interest rates is a temporary one and in the future, we will try to decrease the interest rate to allow for growth.”
Lastly, Mr. Amer’s parting words were that “we need to work so we can get the real economy working and stable. This is a big challenge that needs a lot of patience.”