Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012
Wednesday,18 October, 2017
Issue 1122, 15 - 21 November 2012

Ahram Weekly

Land by nationality

Al-Ahram Weekly

In September, Prime Minister Hisham Kandil issued decree 959/2012, containing executive regulations on the comprehensive development of the Sinai Peninsula. Article 8 of the decree stipulates that any Egyptian with dual nationality has, within six months of implementation of the executive regulations, to sell his property, whether land or buildings, in Sinai to Egyptians who hold only Egyptian nationality and whose parents are both Egyptian.
The article adds: “If the six months pass and the property was not sold, the ownership will revolve to the state in return for payment of equivalent price to the owner. The price will be decided by a committee of experts formed by a decision from the minister of justice.”
Mourad Mikhail, a German-Egyptian who has been living in Dahab for 23 years where he owns two pieces of land, described the new law, in effect since 13 September, as “devastating” to Egyptians with dual nationality living in Sinai.
Mikhail has built his own home on one plot land while on the other one he has a building with four apartments that he leases out.
“It is not logical for the government to come and take my land and property away after all these years,” Mikhail told Al-Ahram Weekly. “If I knew this from the beginning, I would not have come and invested in Sinai,” he added.
According to the law, Mikhail has only four months left to sell his land and property to Egyptians holding only Egyptian nationality, otherwise his land will return to the state.
Mikhail said that even if he thought about selling his land now, this would be a difficult matter amid the current circumstances in Sinai.
He pointed out that such a law would certainly hinder investment in Sinai, because it would discourage Egyptians with dual nationality from investing in the peninsula. “Who would come and invest in a piece of land he does not own?” he wondered.
Mikhail said that the law affects and harms some 400 families and 10 projects in Dahab and Sharm El-Sheikh, adding that he and the affected families are considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the decree. Mikhail said that no law should be imposed retroactively.
Mohamed Reda is in no better a condition than Mikhail. Reda owns two hotels in Dahab and he, too, has to sell his land and hotels according to the new law.
Reda has owned the land since 1995 and acquired Swiss nationality in 2006 when he married his Swiss wife.
Reda stated that he and his wife have invested all their money in these hotels and now they are about to lose the land and hotels. “I am an Egyptian citizen. Why can’t I own the land?” he asked.
Reda replicated Mikhail’s view, saying that the law would hamper investment in Sinai and add to the already tense situation in the peninsula.
However, foreigners and Egyptians, according to the same law, can own entities without owning the land on which they are built through submitting a petition to the National Authority for the Development of Sinai. The authority could then accept or reject the petition within 90 days of its submission.
Lawyer Mohamed Abdel-Azim stated that the law comes with the purpose of controlling land ownership in Sinai for fear it could be sold to foreigners. He stated that legal tricks are practiced in Sinai to sell foreigners land with legal and registered contracts. “I understand the purpose of this law; however, I disagree that it includes all Egyptians with dual nationality,” Abdel-Azim told the Weekly.
Abdel-Azim added that the law is preemptive and suggests that all Egyptians have bad intentions and they could sell their land illegally to foreigners.
Abdel-Azim further pointed out that the law could be judged unconstitutional because it contradicts with the notion of citizenship on the grounds that it discriminates between Egyptians. Also this law could mean confiscating lands without a court ruling, which is unconstitutional.
For security reasons, land ownership in Sinai is firmly controlled, even for Egyptians. Egyptian investors with a non-Egyptian parent, for example, cannot own land but can obtain concession contracts in the peninsula.
Until recently, foreigners were banned from investing in Sinai. However, the Egyptian government agreed last September to allow foreigners to invest in Sinai with a maximum stake of 45 per cent in any Sinai-based project, while Egyptian capital in any project should not be less than 55 per cent.
Foreigners can run their ventures through concession contracts from the government.

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