Egypt's Sisi says military accounts for 1.5-2 percent of economy

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi looks on during his ceremonial reception at the forecourt of India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, India, September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton/File Photo

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday that the military’s economic activity accounted for no more than two percent of the country’s output, dismissing suggestions that the military could control as much as half of the economy.

Speaking at an event celebrating the expansion of a military-owned company, Sisi said the military made up 1.5-2 percent of economic output which he said was 3-4 trillion Egyptian pounds ($160 billion-$213 billion).

That would put the military’s share of economic activity at between $2.39 billion and $4.26 billion.

“It has been said that the military’s economy is worth 20 or even 50 percent of the economy. I wish. We have nothing to hide; the military accounts for between 1.5 to 2 percent of the economy,” Sisi said, adding that the military paid taxes on all projects and that they were subject to regulations and auditing.

“We would love for it to be 50 percent.”

Sisi, a former general who took office in 2014, has promised to revive the economy, which has struggled since a 2011 uprising scared away investors and tourists, Egypt’s main sources of foreign currency.

He has called in the military to assist in major infrastructure projects and with distribution of subsidized commodities to keep a lid on rising prices amid an acute shortage of dollars.

The economic weight of the military, which produces everything from bottled water to macaroni, has long been a topic of speculation in Egypt but official comment on the scope of its economic activities is rare.

Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Mostafa Hashem; Editing by Adrian Croft