23 - 29 September 1999
Issue No. 448
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
Egypt Region International Economy Opinion Culture Comment Focus Special Features Profile Travel Living Sports People Time Out Chronicles Cartoons Letters
The harvestStability and development marked President Mubarak's 18 years in power
A number of agricultural, industrial, mining, infrastructure and tourism mega projects were launched across the country during President Hosni Mubarak's era. The projects were aimed, among other things, at increasing the populated regions from five per cent to 25 per cent of Egyptian territory. Some LE514 billion have been spent on development projects so far.
The multi-billion South Valley Development project will encourage an exodus from the Nile Valley to the adjacent desert by reclaiming vast stretches of land. The scheme aims to cultivate approximately one million feddans in Toshka in the New Valley Governorate, East Oweinat and the New Valley oases.
Regarded by the government as "the project of the millennium", Toshka aims at reclaiming some 540,000 feddans west of Lake Nasser. Some six million people are expected to inhabit the area within the next two decades. The East Oweinat project is expected to cultivate 250,000 feddans using organic fertilisers and abundant subterranean water.
Another major project is the East Port Said containers' harbour, which should be completed by October 2000. It is located at the cross-roads between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea and aims at serving up to 3.5 million containers annually. The development of the region northwest of the Gulf of Suez is another mega-scheme which depends mainly on an integrated development plan in the coastline there, at a cost of LE1.2 billion.
The 260-km Salam Canal is a major irrigation project which will irrigate some 400,000 feddans in northern Sinai. Another important water project, the third largest of its kind in the world, is the Greater Cairo Waste Water Network and Plant which began in 1984 and whose construction cost is LE15.5 billion. The plant can treat six million cubic metres of waste water a day and will serve 20 million people.
The first phase of the Cairo underground metro network was inaugurated in 1989, making it the most reliable means of transport inside the capital, as it serves approximately four million commuters daily.
Traffic conditions also improved after the construction of the Al-Mounib Bridge and the 26th of July route. Both are part of the Greater Cairo ring road currently under construction. The LE420 million Al-Mounib Bridge is one of the longest bridges across the Nile. The 26th of July route runs from the heart of Giza to the start of the Cairo-Alexandria desert highway near the Pyramids.
Last week, the ninth and final extension of the 6th of October Bridge, costing LE360 million, was inaugurated, connecting Giza with the airport road.
Egypt's first media satellite, NileSat, was put into orbit in April 1998 and one month later President Mubarak inaugurated NileSat's ground station at the 6th of October City. At a cost of $160 million, Egypt became the first Arab country to own a media satellite. It covers the Arab world, parts of Africa and southern Europe.
National industry depends on 4,700 new factories built since 1981, as well as 1,200 older plants. The construction of the new factories has multiplied production six-fold at a growth rate of 11 per cent a year. Some 5,000 additional factories are under construction in the satellite cities and should be completed by 2002.
The growth rate reached 5.7 per cent last year and is expected to rise to 6.9 per cent in 1999. This is three times the rate of population growth, which stands at two per cent, but is expected to drop to 1.5 per cent soon.
To cope with Egypt's economic crisis in the early 1980s, a national economic conference was held in 1982 to address structural and policy issues. Four five-year plans were implemented. Since then, inflation dropped to 3.3 per cent in 1998, one-fifth of the 1981 rate. The per capita income rose from $427 in 1981/82 to $1,410 annually. The rate of unemployment dropped as a result of 6.5 million new jobs made possible by the previous five-year plans. Between 1995 and 1998, unemployment fell from 11.3 per cent to eight per cent. The value of the Egyptian pound has stabilised and Egypt moved up from being a poor to a medium-income country by international standards.
The share of the private sector in development projects rose from 20 per cent in 1981 to 65 per cent last year at a cost of LE500 billion. The private sector's share currently stands at 73 per cent of the GNP, or LE300 billion, playing a vital role in Egypt's development. In 1982, private investments totalled LE1.3 billion, but have now multiplied several times to reach LE43 billion. New sectors, especially in infrastructure, were opened to private investors through BOT and BOOT projects.
In 1991, Egypt signed up with the IMF and World Bank to begin an intensive economic reform programme which ended in September 1998. Some 113 companies worth LE8.5 billion were privatised, the budget deficit was reduced to less than one per cent and nearly 60 liberalisation laws were passed in banking, insurance, agriculture and investment to pave the way for an economy surge. Already, Egypt's economic growth rate is six per cent and is expected to rise to 6.8 per cent next year.
Egypt prides itself in the fact that its economic reform was implemented gradually, taking into consideration the social dimensions of transition. As the government slowly withdraws from many sectors of the economy, steps are being taken to protect the underprivileged sectors of society.
At the same time, the national social insurance system at present covers 97 per cent of the country's citizens. The budget for pensions has increased twenty-fold, reaching LE9.7 billion last year. Special attention is also being given to six million disabled citizens.
At the signing of the Cairo agreement between the Palestinians and Israelis in 1994; hosting the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) economic conference in Cairo in 1996; confering with his counterparts at a meeting of the Arab League; with Al-Ahram Chairman and Chief Editor Ibrahim Nafie; with Mrs. Mubarak during an Asian tour earlier this year; greeting well-wishers after his narrow escape from an assassination attempt in 1995; bidding farewell to Egyptian troops leaving to take part in UN peace keeping operations; building the future at Toshka; welcoming Egyptian troops returning home after the 1991 Gulf War
After the 1992 earthquake, there was an upsurge in the construction of schools, with some 9,500 schools built throughout the country starting 1993. So far, 11,500 schools have been equipped with modern technological facilities such as computers and the Internet. Funds allocated for education by the state budget increased more than four-fold since 1981, reaching LE16.1 billion in the 1999/2000 budget. The number of students attending school doubled between 1981 and 1999 to 16 million. In step with the latest in education facilities, seven satellite channels on NileSat specialise in educational programmes.
There are currently 12 universities in Egypt, four of which are private, including 365 colleges, more than double the 1981 figure of 166.
The years 1989-1999 were dubbed The Decade for the Protection and Care of the Egyptian Child. The first childhood conference was held in 1996, and a children's law was amended in the same year sanctioning the rights of children to health, social care and a proper education.
Many Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have focused on educating mothers and raising awareness on childcare. Since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the social role of NGOs has gained a high profile and have since made progress in many sectors in society.
Some 300 NGOs already work in the environment, a cause which has the government's full support. In 1984, the Environment Agency was established and in July 1997, a separate ministry was especially created for environmental protection. Although seemingly an insurmountable task, government bodies have worked hard to reduce pollution in the capital. This is being done through planting a green belt around Cairo, cleaning up the Nile, reducing vehicle emissions and controlling noise pollution.
Egypt's cultural scene has also witnessed a revival through the completion of the Opera House in 1988, the renovation of cinemas, cultural palaces and museums, as well as staging the annual Aida Opera performances. It was the 1992 earthquake which brought attention to the deteriorating state of some of Egypt's historical and religious sites. Repairs were made on 212 monuments damaged in the quake. There are more than 120 renovation projects of historical sites under way.
Tourism flourished over the past 18 years as the number of tourists tripled from one million in 1982 to three million in 1999. Hotel capacity increased from 18,000 rooms in 1982 to 87,000 in 1999. Egypt's revenues from tourism rose from $304 million in 1982 to $3.2 billion in the fiscal year 1998/1999.
Researched and compiled by Nevine Khalil and Rehab Saad