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Sir- Al-Ahram Weekly must be commended for publishing an excellent article by Amira Shalaby, "The Mortgage Solution" (25 February - 3 March).
Since 1996, I have had the pleasure of serving as adviser to a number of Egyptian real estate developers within the framework of the International Executive Service Corps operations in Egypt. During my professional activities stretching over 40 years, in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, I built and sold upward of 20,000 homes, developed ancillary and commercial facilities, was involved in resort and new town planning.
In many ways, Egypt could be a developers' paradise: it has ample land, varied and extensive seashores for resorts, and a government doing an excellent job of improving the country's infrastructure. During the past few years the road network, airport facilities and water supply have been greatly improved. The only missing link for successful real estate development is the lack of mortgage financing!
The private sector is almost exclusively addressing the needs of the wealthy upper classes, since they are the only ones who can afford modern housing due to the lack of long-term mortgage financing which would open the market to the younger buyers who are most in need of adequate housing. Short-term financing by banks and deferred payment accepted by developers is not the solution.
It is my understanding the government is currently working on introducing laws permitting the creation of mortgage financing. Let us not forget that providing the tools for the aspiring younger generation to own their home is the cornerstone for economic and political stability in any country!
Andrew L Lorant
Safe as houses
Sir- I am a Belgian photographer currently visiting your lovely country. My purpose is to follow Flaubert's path through Egypt circa 1849-1850, taking photographs with the intention of compiling them into a book.
I have my own car and when I started, on my own, on my photographic mission, I was surprised that the Egyptian police made me join a convoy of cars in Upper Egypt, "for security reasons". Needless to say, this has totally ruined my plans. And for some reason beyond me, foreigners may not travel to Abu Simbel by car or bus, but must take the plane. Why?
May I just add that no tourist in his right mind would enjoy seeing Egypt's great monuments with a policeman armed with a submachine gun standing at his elbow?
Surely the Egyptian security forces are overdoing it a bit, no?
Marc De Clercq
Up in smoke
Sir- Talking about the Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde approach -- don't you find it contradictory that on the first page of your issue of 23 February-3 March you have an article about banning smoking and the danger of smoking and on the last page you have advertising for Marlboro?
Travel Company of Egypt
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