Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1205, (10 - 16 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Remapping Egypt

The creation of three new governorates stirs controversy

Three new governorates, Central Sinai, Al-Alamein and Al-Wahhat Al-Bahariya, will soon be created under a presidential decree, bringing the total number to 32, reports Reem Leila. The proposed new governorates will be discussed by the cabinet before being submitted to president Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, who will issue a presidential decree for their creation.

Minister of State for Local Development Adel Labib said at a press conference that the committee tasked with the re-demarcation of borders between the governorates had agreed on the creation of the new governorates.

“After finalising the re-demarcation of borders, each governorate will have enough desert land to allow urban expansion and preserve current agricultural areas,” Labib said.

He said the new demarcations would increase the number of regional units from seven to 11. “Recent studies have showed that Egypt’s population will rise to 106 million by 2027. Egypt’s current population is 91 million, out of which 83 million live on only five to six per cent of the total area of land,” he said.

Each governorate under the new demarcation will have at least 35 square km of desert land. “The new demarcation, which Al-Sisi has thoroughly reviewed with scientist Farouk Al-Baz, will help in the reclamation of at least four million feddans of land,” Labib added.

Due to the creation of the new governorates, Labib said, there would be a limited government reshuffle in the coming few weeks. “Young people will be highly represented,” he said.

However, the restructuring provoked clashes among experts, with some supporting the new demarcations and others against them. Reda Haggag, a professor of urban planning at Cairo University, said that planning experts at the Ministries of Urban Planning and International Cooperation had convinced the president that restructuring the governorates would help advance economic and development objectives.

“But the main reason behind the new demarcation is to dissect Egypt,” Haggag said.

According to Haggag, in order to apply the new demarcation residents of the areas would have to be redistributed. “This will reduce the population in some governorates and lead to the fragmentation of others,” he said.

When 100 people from the same family reside in an area of 150 people, Haggag said, this situation is totally different from their living in an area along with 10,000 others. “This rearrangement could lead to tribal conflicts, like in Nubia, Halayeb and Shalateen,” he argued.

Other critics of the changes say they should have been subjected to a trial period instead of being implemented immediately.

Analyst Amr Al-Chobaki of the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies is critical of the way the government has dealt with the issue as a purely technical one in which public opinion has had no part to play.

“What has happened is reminiscent of what happened during the regime of former president Hosni Mubarak. The restructuring of the governorates then was proven to be a failure and was annulled after the ousting of Mubarak. This decision ignores the opinions of citizens and experts alike,” he commented.

The lack of communication between the state and the public, he said, was almost guaranteed to see changes in the avowed aims. “The timing of this decision, which coincides with the rise in fuel prices, makes people feel uneasy. So much is happening at the same time. I hope the president will not risk sacrificing the people’s esteem by taking such decisions,” he added.

Residents of the three new governorates are not sure whether the decision will benefit them. The final borders have not been identified, and it has been difficult to judge the effects of a decision when it has just been made.

“Some agree in principle with the idea of dividing the country into more governorates since this will allow officials to focus more on the development process and address problems earlier,” Al-Chobaki said. “But while they believe in such concepts, only time will tell if the changes are a force for good or not,” he said.

Abdel-Mohsen Barada, a professor of urban planning at Cairo University, said that the restructuring was a positive move. “Change is a part of life,” he said. The new administrative borders would help implement projects for the new cities, thus providing solutions to the growing housing problem and reducing migration to cities like Cairo and Alexandria.

“The new horizontal restructuring, as well as adding new governorates, will help in the development of the Upper Egypt governorates,” he said.

The idea of creating new governorates was first mooted in 2005 by the then minister of local development. Barada, who welcomes the new map of Egypt, thinks there are some disadvantages that could have been avoided, saying that the decision should have been postponed until after the passage of the budget.

There was a huge deficit in this year’s budget, and the restructuring should have taken place after this had been absorbed, he said.

“How much will the changes cost,” he asked. “Will extra money be made available to cover the expenses involved in setting up the three new governorates?”

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