Tuesday,30 May, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)
Tuesday,30 May, 2017
Issue 1345, (18 - 24 May 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Southward bound

Upper Egypt was the centre of attention this week with the inauguration of over 50 infrastructure projects, reports Niveen Wahish

Southward bound
Southward bound

Qena, Aswan, the New Valley, Minya and Luxor were just some of the Upper Egyptian governorates where major development projects were inaugurated by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi this week.

The projects included the infrastructure for reclaiming 21,000 feddans of land in Farafra in the New Valley, a new train station in Aswan, new bridges in Tahta, Nagaa Hammadi, Luxor and Aswan, and eight cereal storage silos in various governorates.

The new projects are part of government efforts to raise standards of living in Upper Egypt. They are intended to increase the cultivable land, provide modern storage space for wheat stocks and expand the national road network.

Of the 1,000 poorest villages in Egypt, 941 are located in Upper Egypt, according to a study entitled “A Profile of Poverty Across Egypt and Recommendations” carried out by the Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID), an NGO focusing on development in Upper Egypt.

The population of rural Upper Egypt is dramatically worse off than that of rural Lower Egypt, the study shows, adding that the Qena governorate suffers the most in all of Upper Egypt.

Speaking from Qena where he opened some of the projects and inaugurated the rest by video conference, the president said that people needed to be aware of the real cost of upgrading infrastructure. He pointed out that no country in the world provided services at such a low cost as Egypt.

He stressed that there was a huge difference between the revenues and expenditures of infrastructure services. Nonetheless, he said that the government would not leave infrastructure to fall apart and that it would only settle for suitable services for citizens.

“All citizens must know the truth about Egypt’s economic situation and that it is essential to carry out the economic reforms that are now in place,” Al-Sisi said.

The president said that building nations happened through effort and that if people really wanted to build the country this would mean sacrifices. Egypt needs trillions of pounds for modern infrastructure, he pointed out. For example, to increase the efficiency of railway services in Upper Egypt, LE100 billion would be needed.

There is strong evidence that justifies targeting rural Egypt and especially rural Upper Egypt for economic development, the ENID study said. “Discrimination in public spending in favour of the south of the country is not only called for on account of differentials in poverty levels and deprivation, but can also be justified in terms of comparative advantage for job creation in labour-intensive agriculture processing, manufacturing and tourism.”

During the inaugurations, the president recognised the role of the United Arab Emirates in supporting the building of 28 cereal storage silos. These will cut waste by up to 20 per cent, he said.

The Ministry of Planning said last week that Egypt aimed to increase its silo storage capacity to 3.13 million tons of wheat in 2017/18 from 1.528 million tons in 2015/16, according to Ahram Online. An older system of storage in open areas is currently causing waste estimated at LE4 billion annually, it said.

Egypt consumes 18 million tons of wheat annually, 10 million of which are imported. People needed to know the cost of wheat and how that relates to the some 300 to 400 million loaves of bread produced on a daily basis, the president stressed.

He also listened to reports on the progress of the 1.5 million feddans project. The first phase includes the development of 500,000 feddans of land before offering them to investors and small farmers. It is intended to create jobs as well as to expand the area of arable land in Egypt.

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