In a national address in Ismailia on Tuesday, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi spoke of the value of the new Suez Canal Development project for Egypt’s economic progress.
He spoke on the occasion of the launching of the new Suez Canal project, which will be dug along the current historic canal that is a site of passage and the fastest shipping route for a significant portion of international trade between Europe and Asia.
Sisi lamented the regression that Egypt is experiencing to emphasize the dire need for the project. He said that he foresees the project to be finished in a year, and asked those involved to work hard to complete it as fast as possible.
He reiterated the need to finish the project as quickly as possible to Mohab Mamish, the chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, who said the project will need three years to be completed.
According to Mamish, the new canal will be 72 kilometers long, 35 of which will involve dry drilling, with the remaining 37 kilometers used for expansion and deepening of the canal. The project also involves developing an industrial and logistics hub in the area.
Sisi said that the project, which was previously proposed during the rule of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, was not rejected due to a political dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood. Morsi had pledged a similar project during his short-lived rule, for which he faced harsh criticism for handing over important state assets to foreign private contractors.
The president indicated that Egyptians feel a certain sensitivity toward foreign involvement in such projects, stating that the creation of the new Suez Canal as well as the building of six new tunnels in Sinai will be carried out by the military, citing national security as a concern.
Meanwhile, he said that the wider development projects in the Suez Canal will be contracted to foreign, Arab as well as Egyptian investors.
The privately owned Al-Masry Al-Youm had said that the winning consortium of the project will be led by Dar al-Handassa, of which the Armed Forces Engineering Authority is a local partner, as well as a Dutch consulting company Royal Haskoning DHV.
The project is predicted to generate at least double the amount of revenues of the Suez Canal, which currently stand at US$5 billion.
Sisi invited Egyptians to contribute to the project, “We want all Egyptians to hold shares in this project,” Sisi said, urging citizens to contribute with LE100 if they live in the country, and US$100 for those living abroad.
Resorting to public contributions has been at the core of Sisi’s response to the financial crisis. One of the measures that he has resorted to is the opening of a public fund that citizens and state institutions have been contributing to. The fund, called “Tahya Masr” (long live Egypt), has been criticized because it is not clear how this money is being spent, or who is monitoring it. In today’s speech, Sisi said that the fact that the fund is under his control is enough of a guarantee that the money will be used in the interests of the nation.
Sisi said that Egypt needs to have financial self-sufficiency, since the fiscal crisis is its main problem and will not be solved by borrowing. “We need a financial liquidity of LE32 billion in order to continue stalled projects which cannot be spent on from the government’s budget,” he said. Egypt’s debt has reached 93 percent of its GDP.
Sisi stressed on the importance of road development as a form of economic empowerment and said that road development projects won’t be implemented using the year’s state budget. He also called on the Minister of Planning to revamp old roads.
The Suez Canal project launch was accompanied with a media buzz today. Sisi spoke about media support and called on media responsibility and consciousness in rebuilding the country. He said that former President Gamal Abdel Nasser “was lucky because he was talking and the media sided with him.”
Sisi indicated that he accepts that a certain segment of the population is not pleased with the government, but stressed that “we will not let anyone bring down Egypt while we are here.”