Egyptian investors and economic analysts said President Mohamed Morsi's visit to Saudi Arabia was one of the most important steps he has taken since he assumed office.
During his trip to the kingdom on Wednesday (July 11th), Morsi held talks on a variety of economic issues. He chose Saudi Arabia as his first foreign visit after his election to demonstrate Egypt's strong ties with one of its most crucial economic supporters.
Dr. Yasser Ali, acting spokesman for the Egyptian presidency, said Saudi leaders agreed to increase the kingdom's investments in Egypt, according to the Middle East news agency.
Both sides agreed that "more work opportunities in the kingdom will be provided to skilled Egyptian labour and all outstanding issues and land connection problems impeding the flow of trade and investment will be resolved", Ali told the news agency.
Cairo University economics professor Dr. Yahia Salem said Morsi's visit "came at the right time to save the Egyptian economy and lift it out of the trouble it has encountered since the January revolution, the decline in foreign capital, and the departure of investors."
"The visit is of great importance not only in terms of the relations between the two countries but also given the socioeconomic situation in the region as a whole, especially as the new world order now espouses bi-lateral alliances and regional coalitions based on economic considerations," Salem said.
As a major source of financial aid and direct investment for Egypt, the Kingdom has deposited $1 billion into the Central Bank, provided grants worth $500 million to support the economy and $250 million to support natural gas imports to Egypt, Salem said.
Meanwhile, Saeed Abdul Ghani, a member of the Egypt-Saudi Business Council, said, "Businessmen in both countries are interested in this visit and will be its main beneficiaries in light of the relative decline in investment relations that occurred in the past period and the numerous outstanding [legal] cases involving Saudi investors in Egypt, which hindered the flow of new investments."
Abdul Ghani said businessmen will make "significant efforts to stimulate investment and restore confidence among Saudi businessmen".
"Saudi Arabia's economic and political gravitas will encourage Gulf investors to return," he said, adding that he expects a recovery in real estate, industry and the stock market, which will in turn stimulate trade and joint agreements.
Abdul Ghani said that according to Business Council data, Saudi Arabia ranks first among Arab countries in terms of investment volume in Egypt. He said 36% of investments are in industry, 28% in services and financing, and 16% in tourism and hospitality.
He added that there are 2,315 investment projects worth $2.8 billion, and the volume of trade exchange between the two countries reached $4.4 billion in 2011.
Majed al-Mahmoud, head of the Workers Bureau of the Emigration and Egyptians Abroad Sector in the Ministry of Manpower and Emigration, said, "It is not surprising that the issue of Egyptian workers in the kingdom featured prominently in the talks because remittances from Egyptian expatriates constitute one of the pillars of the Egyptian national economy and an important source of foreign currency."
There are about two million Egyptian expatriates in the Kingdom, but officials estimate that the actual number is much higher, al-Mahmoud said.
He added that Morsi and Saudi leaders also discussed the prospect of conducting a census to verify the actual number and validate the ex-pats legal status.
He said the talks also focused on preventing legal cases from becoming a source of tension that could harm bilateral relations as happened recently with the case of Ahmed al-Gizawi. The detention of the human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia in April triggered protests in Egypt and the closure of the Saudi embassy in Cairo.