Egypt's Prime Minister Sherif Ismail has stressed that his cabinet respects Upper Egyptians and that the development of the country's south is a priority, following controversial remarks by a newly-appointed minister which seemed to blame Upper Egyptians for contributing to the growth of Cairo's expansive slum areas.
Earlier this week, the newly-appointed Minister for Local Development Abu Bakr El-Guindy told satellite TV channel Al-Hayat that he aims to encourage investment in Upper Egypt to create job opportunities so that "Upper Egyptians stop taking the train and coming to Cairo ... and forming slums here."
His comments sparked uproar, with several MPs demanding that he apologise for what they deemed prejudiced comments.
The minister apologised shortly after, saying that his remarks were "misunderstood".
In a cabinet statement late on Monday, PM Ismail said that Upper Egypt is a "precious" part of Egypt and is "at the heart of the comprehensive development plan that aims to offer a better future" and prosperity for Egyptians living in Upper Egypt.
In Egypt, where tens of millions of people live below the poverty line, large numbers of people from the impoverished rural south migrate to the capital Cairo in search of jobs and better living conditions.
A 2016 report by Egypt's official statistics agency CAMPAS said that 57 percent of rural areas in the country's south are poor, with the highest poverty rates appearing in the southern govenorates of Sohag, Assiut and Qena.
Many Egyptians have long blamed previous governments for neglecting to develop that part of the country.