2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875|
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Ceiling on projects
MEGA-PROJECTS were the subject of scrutiny during President Hosni Mubarak's meeting with the cabinet early this week. The president reviewed financial and executive programmes for five mega-projects -- the Gulf of Suez, East of Port Said, Toshka, Darb El-Arbein and El-Salam Canal -- and recommended reducing government expenditure. Projects must be prioritised, he said, on the basis of a strict cost-benefit analysis.
The president also prohibited public sector companies from financing investments in either the Gulf of Suez or East of Port Said projects. He said that land will be withdrawn from any company that reneges on its infrastructural commitments over the next two years, so it is particularly important that businesses carefully timetable their plans and give realistic dates for the construction of factories.
In line with the president's recommendations, the cabinet is currently examining a report prepared by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. The report advises that the government provide only 10 per cent of the capital required by the mega-projects, and that this percentage be directed to specific infrastructural requirements, such as roads, water, electricity, ports and railroads. The remaining investment must come from the private sector.
A large number of mega-development projects are under construction, aimed at improving the country's infrastructure, reclaiming the desert and changing the country's demographic map. The South Valley Development project is one of these major schemes, which intends to facilitate movement from the Nile Valley to the adjacent desert by reclaiming vast stretches of land. The project's target is to cultivate approximately one million feddans in Toshka, in the New Valley Governorate; East Oweinat; and the New Valley oases.
Another major project underway is that of the East Port Said sea port. Located at the crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, the port will serve up to 3.5 million containers annually.
A project northwest of the gulf of Suez is another development effort relying on an integrated development plan in the coastline around the gulf of Suez to the south, Ras Sudr to the east and Ain El-Sukhna to the west.
In northern Sinai, the El-Salam Canal is another mega irrigation project. The canal extends for a distance of 87 km from Damietta to the Suez Canal, where the water is transported through a tunnel under the Suez Canal to extend the Nile water to Sinai.