President Sisi opens major development projects in Upper Egypt

Zeinab El-Gundy , Mohamed Soliman , Wednesday 22 Dec 2021

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi inaugurated on Wednesday a major complex for producing benzene at the Assiut Petroleum Refining Company in Upper Egypt in addition to several infrastructure projects in the region.

President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi

The Assiut complex is the largest petroleum complex in Upper Egypt to date, Presidential Spokesperson Bassam Rady said. 

It is one of the state’s strategic projects that aim to develop Upper Egypt by securing benzene supplies to the region, Rady explained.

During the inauguration event in Assiut, El-Sisi inaugurated over video conference a number of other infrastructure projects in the region, including the Abu-Quras Water Plant; a hospital for treating liver diseases; Deir Mawas Central Hospital; Malawy Specialised Hospital; and Samalout Model Hospital in Minya.

The president also inaugurated projects of expansions to several water plants in Qena; the Faculty and Hospital of Dentistry in the University of Assiut; the Children’s Specialised Hospital and Isis Hospital for Women and Childbirth in Luxor; and a hospital for mental health in Sohag.

In a speech during the event, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said that the state has drawn a comprehensive plan to develop Upper Egypt in order to remedy historic marginalisation and poor services.

“The state has put the development of Upper Egypt at the top of its priorities,” Madbouly stressed.

The state has been working to improve the quality of life for Egyptian citizens by implementing several development projects, the premier said.

He noted that the government has pumped investments worth EGP 1.1 trillion into projects to develop Upper Egypt’s governorates, with a successful 96 percent rate of implementation.

Madbouly detailed the projects the state has concluded over the past 7 years in Upper Egypt, stressing that such projects aim both to raise the standard of living for citizens and also maximise the use of the region's natural resources.

Several projects have been implemented to provide drinking water as well as raise sewage coverage rates at a cost of EGP 45 billion in Upper Egypt, he noted.

The government also constructed 188,000 housing units in the region at a cost of EGP 41.5 billion that have been equipped with the necessary services and utilities.

The state has also connected natural gas to 11 million housing units in Upper Egypt and established and developed 63 projects in the health sector, he added.

Furthermore, 14 major road axes are being constructed across the Nile River at a cost of EGP 23.5 billion.

​Madbouly also announced the establishment of the largest date farm in the world on an area of 40,000 feddans in Toshka.

Public investments in Upper Egypt

Egypt’s government has increased the allocations of public investments in Upper Egypt to EGP 92.4 billion during the current FY2021/2022, up from the EGP 47 billion allocated in FY2020/21, Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala El-Said announced on Tuesday.

According to the minister, Southern Upper Egypt has the lion’s share of these allocations with a total of EGP 51 billion, representing 55 percent of total public investments in Upper Egypt.

Central Upper Egypt accounts for 23.9 percent of these investments with a total of EGP 22.1 billion, followed by Northern Upper Egypt that accounts for 20.9 percent with a total of EGP 19.3 billion.

Upper Egypt & the Decent Life Initiative

The prime minister noted that Upper Egypt suffers from a demographic-geographical imbalance since the region accounts for two-thirds of the total area of the country but it is inhabited by only 30 percent of the 102-million population, thus resulting in shortages in services, infrastructure, and job opportunities.

The premier added that there are EGP 180 billion in investments in the projects of the Decent Life Presidential Initiative that are currently being implemented in Upper Egypt, which include establishing schools, roads, and service complexes in all villages.

Digitisation will also play a major role in the implementation of these projects.

These projects have created 600,000 job opportunities for youths in Upper Egypt so far, Madbouly said.

Additionally, Minister of Housing Assem El-Gazzar stated at the event that the Decent Life Initiative is the magical solution that will solve the problems of Upper Egypt, as it will serve 77 percent of its population.

The Decent Life Initiative’s (‘Hayah Karima’ in Arabic) first phase officially launched in July 2021 as per the directives of President El-Sisi. The project aims to improve standards of living, infrastructure, and basic services — including health care — across the countryside.

The project covers 4,658 villages across the country — which are home to 58 percent of Egypt’s population — with an estimated budget of EGP 700 billion (about $44.6 billion).

Its first phase, which has a budget estimated at EGP 250 billion and covers 1,500 villages, is due to be completed by the end of the FY2021/22 fiscal year.

Urban communities

El-Gazzar stated during his speech at the event that the government established 14 new urban communities in Upper Egypt, adding that 6 new cities will be established in the coming years.

The housing minister said that, recently, the sum of investments in the ministry’s projects reached EGP 86.5 billion, with 2,800 companies aiding the government in the establishment of these new communities and providing 1.4 million job opportunities in Upper Egypt.

He also added that Upper Egypt has long suffered from imbalance in its urban system, as only 25 percent of its population live in urban cities while 75 percent still live in the countryside, which contributes to the increasing level of unemployment and poverty in the region.

In this context, El-Sisi said that the state is tackling the challenge of changing citizens’ mindsets to accept moving to new urban communities, stressing the importance of raising awareness regarding the dangers of building on fertile lands.

“We are working to increase the proportion of agricultural land to provide basic commodities and food for Egyptians,” the president said, adding that desert land reclamation costs the state more money, as fertile land in the valley of the Nile has decreased.

“One single feddan needs EGP 250,000 to 300,000 to be reclaimed,” the president said, noting that the new urban communities in Upper Egypt and Nile Delta will counter the increase in population as well as protect agricultural land.

Water challenges

Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait also spoke during the event and warned that encroaching on agricultural lands costs Egypt a lot of money, stating that trillions of pounds are spent on new irrigation projects to reclaim desert land.

Giving an example on how the encroachment of agricultural land near the Nile River reduced the cultivation of wheat with an increasing population, Maait stated that Egypt currently imports wheat with inflated prices to meet local needs, which will eventually impact citizens’ standard of living.

“We will not waste a single drop of water,” said President El-Sisi, affirming that Egypt is at the top of the list of countries that deal with water scarcity.

The president stated that nearly EGP 300 billion have been spent during the past 5 years on water treatment plants used for agriculture.

Egypt, which is considered one of the most water-scarce countries in the world, receives around 60 bcm of water annually — mainly from the Nile — while its needs stand at around 114 bcm, placing the 102-million country well below the international threshold for water scarcity, at 560 cubic metres per person annually.

In previous statements, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Mohamed Abdel-Ati explained that the large gap in water resources in Egypt is overcome by importing 54 percent of its virtual water, which is the embedded water required to produce commodities, and reusing 42 percent of its renewable water.

Egypt has developed a four-pronged National Water Resources Plan that will run through 2037 that is based on rationalising water usage, improving water quality, creating additional water resources, and fostering a climate suitable for optimal water management, the minister added.

Egypt has also drawn up an additional strategy for its water resources that will run till 2050 at a cost of EGP 900 billion.

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