Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly has ordered a legal committee to study the possibility of taxing the use of beaches.
The committee, according to a statement by the Mohamed Badie, will be headed by the chairman of the cabinet’s Counsellors Authority and include representatives of the Local Development Ministry, the Tourism Development Authority and affected governorates.
Cabinet Spokesperson Nader Saad says the committee will investigate whether or not the government can impose fees for the use of beaches. “Should the committee conclude the state has the right to collect such fees it will then decide on a formula as to how the fees are calculated, who will pay them and how they should be collected. Details will be announced after the committee completes its work.”
Controversy over the issue was sparked when Dabaa city head Hassan Abu Taleb announced the minister of local development had imposed an LE150 per square metre land-use tax on coastal land in the Marsa Matrouh governorate, which includes a string of resort developments.
Abu Taleb was subsequently removed from his post by Minister of Local Development Mahmoud Shaarawi for making “false” statements.
Shaarawi told Al-Mal daily newspaper that Abu Taleb had made “inaccurate” statements about the level of the tax and about the government’s intention to implement it retroactively.
Shaarawi added that the tax complied with Article 51 of the 1979 local governance law and that its details would be determined by the newly formed committee.
Hotel and resort owners said they were surprised to receive letters from the municipal authorities in Alexandria and Marsa Matrouh asking them to pay for beach use and threatening legal action should they fail to comply. They argue the new tax breaches the contractual terms, written and implied, under which they bought land, and say the fact that the land they purchased overlooks the sea was already factored into the price they paid.
“The whole issue is undergoing legal review,” Ahmed Al-Segini, the head of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, told Sada Al-Balad channel.
“The beaches are publicly owned. They do not belong to the resorts or tourist villages. The owners of resorts and hotels exploit beaches but don’t own them, and should therefore pay a fee.”
Emadeddin Hussein, editor-in-chief of Al-Shorouk, wrote in his column that while the “beach tax may bring money into the government’s coffers now it could have negative consequences in the long run, not least by entrenching the picture that the government wants to suck every pound from the pockets of its citizen.”
Hussein lamented the “random manner in which the decision was taken” and said the decision-making process within the government is becoming increasingly problematic.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 September, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the title: Sand tax