Egypt's Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said the Egyptian government will confront any attempt to build in a random manner on state lands to end what he described as "the bleeding of haphazard construction."
Egypt has seen a significant rise in illegal construction since the security vacuum that followed the 2011 uprising, with many people constructing multi-storey buildings without acquiring the necessary permits or complying with engineering safety standards.
In January, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ratified a law allowing settlement with the state over building violations, with the exception of those pertaining to safety standards, authorised height or purpose, historic buildings, and others.
The law sets a six-month deadline, which will be reached by the end of this month, to put an end to violations in the country.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Madbouly vowed to introduce new facilitations for citizens wishing to reconcile with the government regarding these violations to encourage them to speed up the submission of settlement requests.
Unplanned buildings have come to constitute about 50 percent of the urban clusters across the villages and cities countrywide, Madbouly pointed out.
In villages, much agricultural land has been destroyed by the construction of illegal buildings in a scattered and unorganised manner, Madbouly said.
"From the mid-eighties to 2011, random construction came to constitute no less than 70 percent of the urban clusters in Egypt," he said.
The PM said that Egypt lost up to 400,000 feddans between 1980 to 2011, and an additional 90,000 over the past nine years.
"This means we lost a source of food for the Egyptian people, in addition to many job vacancies… and to solve this problem, the state should reclaim other [non-agricultural] spaces," he added.
Madbouly said the cost of reclaiming one feddan is between EGP 150,000 and EGP 200,000, and that the reclamation of 90,000 feddans costs up to EGP 18 billion.
The PM explained that the disorganised nature of construction has also increased the cost of providing Egyptian villages with sewer systems: from EGP 180 billion in 2014 to EGP 300 billion in 2020.
“The cost could have been lower if the buildings were constructed in a planned and organised manner,” he assured.
Madbouly also said that in cities, clusters of red-brick buildings and informal settlements have sprung up. Additional storeys have also been added to existing buildings in violation of permits issued by municipal authorities.
"How can the state supply citizens in these areas with the necessary services?" the PM said during the presser, stressing that any expansion of services takes a heavy toll on the state.
"The state issued the reconciliation law to end the 40-year-old problem and to stop the toll of haphazard construction on Egypt," he said.
The new law is not a punitive measure, but was issued to legalise the state of illegal buildings, Madbouly said, adding that the value of these buildings is expected to increase after the reconciliation measures are finalised.
He stressed that the government is following up on all citizens' complaints in this respect and will ease some procedures, especially those related to the estimated value of reconciliation in some areas, as well as the documents required to submit reconciliation requests.
He urged all citizens to speed up the submission of reconciliation requests to “not lose a great opportunity to maximise the value of their apartments,” revealing that after the government completes its digital transformation system, all apartments will have an official certificate from the state linked to the national ID number of the owners, and all trade in uncertified apartments and buildings will be disallowed.
The prime minister also said that a new set of regulations on construction in cities will be issued following the end of the ongoing suspension of construction.
Municipal authorities were ordered in May to suspend issuing licences for any form of construction for six months, whether for new buildings or for modifications to existing ones, in provinces including Cairo, Giza, Qalioubiya, and Alexandria. The move is part of a government crackdown on illegal buildings across the country.
Madbouly said that under the new regulations, building licences will serve as a form of contract between the government and the building's owner, containing obligations on both sides.
"Any [future] violation will be faced by actions from the state," Madbouly added.
"Our vision is to build a genuine state with proper and planned urbanism equipped with [all necessary] facilities exactly like all developed countries. The government will thus do its best to put an end to this issue [of illegal buildings]."
Egyptian authorities are implementing a nationwide campaign to demolish all illegal buildings that do not meet the requirements of reconciliation stipulated in the law. The government has already announced the removal of thousands of encroachments over the past few months.
“The state has not demolished any occupied buildings, only empty ones,” Madbouly stressed during Wednesday's presser.
In late August, President El-Sisi slammed the building violations in a heated speech, and threatened to deploy the army if the problem persists.