Egypt needs to inspire confidence

Egypt needs competent management and less partisanship to spark recovery, after the tumultuous leadership changes of the past three years. This is obvious in the 13 per cent unemployment and a lack of private capital to finance development. The tourist trade so vital as a job multiplier is in ruins.

But in inauguration remarks calling for an end to political divisions, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi made no concession to Islamic opponents, a clear reference to the Muslim Brotherhood which until recently had run the country.

Coming on top of the return of military dominance after an experiment with democracy was stopped dead in its tracks, Egypt could be in for more uncertainty.

The Brotherhood, a well organised socio-political entity but now banned, retains wide influence among the people despite the army's bid to finish it off. Many of its leaders have been eliminated or put to flight. This is hardly national reconciliation as is commonly understood by the Egyptian people, many of whom are of a liberal, secular bent.

This is not the only unknown variable confronting international lenders and industrialists when considering whether to finance the country's reconstruction after the years of plunder and revolutionary turmoil. The presidential election result also raises questions.

Mr Sisi's 97 per cent capture of the vote was far less eloquent than what the 47 per cent turnout said about the level of enthusiasm for a military man ruling the roost again. This was despite an extra day of polling ordered, as earlier balloting had been embarrassingly low.

That said, Mr Sisi should be allowed latitude to show what he can make of his mandate. He has a lot to prove. The army can be a formidable force for social good if it chooses to be, and be less of a posse hunting down political foes.

It also controls too many economic activities with budget allocations not subject to scrutiny. Investors both local and foreign will be wary about committing funds if there is little transparency and policy clarity. This is also a reason why the International Monetary Fund has dithered over the small bailouts Egypt had sought, but has poured tens of billions into a fiscally questionable case like Ukraine.

Egypt has been kept going with billions in aid from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait after the army toppled president Mohamed Mursi in a coup, but this primarily is to promote a competitive religious agenda in West Asia which the defeat of the Brotherhood represented.

International financiers wanting to invest in infrastructure, manufacturing and agriculture will require assurances of non-partisan governing stability and able leadership. Mr Sisi and his army colleagues have much work to do.