Al-Ahram Weekly Online   15 - 21 April 2004
Issue No. 686
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Big money for airports

LAST week the World Bank's executive board of directors approved a loan of $335 million to develop Egyptian airports, Mona El-Fiqi reports.The project will assist the government in enhancing the efficiency of airport management and doubling the capacity of passenger terminals at Cairo and Sharm El-Sheikh international airports by financing new passenger terminals.

"The project will support the government's ongoing programme to reform the civil aviation sector. It is also critically important for Egypt in providing experience in designing and financing large and complex infrastructure," said Mohamed Ayoub, World Bank country director for Egypt.

The project, which aims at improving airport management and service delivery in a competitive market, will be implemented between July 2004 and December 2008. After the completion of the project, both Cairo and Sharm El-Sheikh airports will be operating according to international standards.

"The government was keen to involve the World Bank in the project to ensure best practice experience on technical, financial, environmental and safeguards issues. The project will also ensure transparent tendering processes -- something that strengthens good governance," Ayoub added.

A World Bank press release stated that with nearly 50 per cent of Egypt's passenger traffic passing through Cairo International Airport, and with traffic nearing the maximum capacity of nine million passengers, Cairo International Airport is not equipped to absorb additional traffic. This is critical since three quarters of passengers arrive from international destinations. The expansion of cargo traffic is also being constrained by congested facilities.

Moreover, rapid growth in passenger traffic due to increased tourism in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh has made the expansion programme for the airport in the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula vital for meeting international air transport demand and boosting foreign exchange earnings.

By enabling two of Egypt's busiest airports to accommodate greater passenger traffic, the project supports the World Bank's country assistance strategy for Egypt to achieve high, sustainable growth.

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