Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)
Tuesday,21 May, 2019
Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Building ‘despite terrorism’

The president calls on Egyptians to stay the course despite the uphill struggle, reports Nevine Khalil

Al-Ahram Weekly

“We chose the hard way,” declared President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi on Saturday. He was speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a mega-project to develop an industrial, seaport and logistical complex in East Port Said.

“Building a nation takes hard work, dedication, honesty and honour,” said Al-Sisi. He went on to speak of the three challenges facing Egypt: terrorism, corruption and the economy.

“Terrorism wants to destabilise and stand in Egypt’s way, [but] we will build despite terrorism,” he said. “We will build despite corruption. The third challenge is the economy, and some parties are plotting to hinder our economic growth.”

He noted that worries regarding businessmen are void of truth, and are a ploy to hinder their participation in developing Egypt. “I am telling businessmen and investors these concerns are baseless,” he said. “Work, and I am with you . . . [for] the benefit of our country and Egyptians who want a good life.”

He added: “I made a deal with Egyptians from the start to build together. I can’t do it by myself. Let’s join hands and build our country.”

Some businessmen say that red tape and the arrest of PICO group founder Salah Diab as signs of an unstable and unfriendly investment climate in Egypt.

“Insults recently directed at businessmen will affect the economy for years to come,” Electrostar Chairman Mohamed Al-Menoufi told Al-Borsa newspaper on Sunday. “We should treat businessmen with respect and not involve the police.”

Mohamed Farag Amer, head of Borg Al-Arab Investors Association and chief of Faragalla Food Industries, agrees. “Some businessmen were defamed recently because the government recklessly took wrong decisions. The president’s message should reassure them.”

Real estate developer Hussein Sabour said that too often the state has failed to honour agreements with business. “Courts issue verdicts in many legal disputes, but the state keeps on trying to reopen those cases. How can a businessman feel safe in such an environment?” asked Sabour.

In March, the cabinet approved a long-awaited draft law on investment aimed at making deals less vulnerable to legal challenges and changes in government, as well as curtailing bureaucratic hurdles. The country also continues to press on with mega-projects worth billions of pounds.

The East Port Said venture aims to transform the Suez Canal area into an international trading and industrial hub. Egypt began the project in 2002, but little was accomplished. Now Al-Sisi is pushing for East Port Said to be completed in a record two years instead of ten to 15 years. In August, a new 35-km branch of the Suez Canal was opened and is expected to attract investment and increase hard currency revenues.

During Saturday’s celebrations, Ahmed Darwish was appointed chairman of the General Authority for the Suez Canal Economic Zone for a three-year term. Darwish served as state minister for administration development between 2004 and 2011. Since leaving public office, he has worked as an international consultant on governance, organisational development and business processes.

The giant East Port Said project, which includes the expansion of the harbour and development of an industrial zone, will take advantage of the area east of the Suez Canal and be an extension of the city of Port Said.

It will be connected via a network of roads and underwater tunnels, and is expected to be an important logistics, industrial and trade zone. The project will include a seaport with massive docks (five km in length and 500 metres wide), a three-km waterway and a docking canal (nine km in length and 250 metres wide).

There will also be an industrial zone covering 40 million square metres, a residential area on four million square metres for around 10,000 housing units in the first phase, a logistics area on 30 million square metres, and fisheries covering 80 million square metres to produce 55,000 tonnes of fish daily and employ 7,000 people.

To serve the project, there are plans to upgrade the Port Said-Sharm Al-Sheikh road, stretching 500 km; the Port Said-Ismailiya road, 104 km long; and constructing a corridor from the International Coastal Highway south of Port Said until Kilo 90 on the Cairo-Ismailiya Desert Road, stretching 102 km.

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