Egypt would never give up sovereignty of Suez Canal or its assets: SCA chairman

Mohamed Soliman , Thursday 22 Dec 2022

Chairman of Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Osama Rabie stressed in a press conference on Thursday that “it is not possible" after all what Egyptians have done to build and develop the canal "to give up the sovereignty of the Suez Canal or any of its assets.”

SCA chairman
Chairman of Egypt's Suez Canal Authority (SCA) Osama Rabie speaking at the press conference. Snapshot Extra News


The SCA chairman’s comments today echoed a statement delivered by Parliament Speaker Hanafy El-Gebaly on Tuesday, where he dismissed rumours that the under-consideration Suez Canal fund could a prelude to selling the canal, stressing that “the state is committed to protecting, developing and preserving the Suez Canal as a strategic international waterway."

During the presser today, Rabie extolled the efforts exerted by the Egyptian people to dig the sea-level canal Suez in 10 years before it was opened in 1867, noting that some 120,000 citizens lost their lives in the digging process.

The SCA chairman also lauded the government's efforts exerted over the past eight years to develop the canal, including the 2015 expansion project that extended its length to 193.3 kilometres and its depth to 24 metres.

He described the canal extension project as an “historical” step which attracted more ships to the waterway and promoted its international ranking.

Rabie also underlined the ongoing efforts to develop the southern sector of the canal.

He described the 1956 decision to nationalise the canal by the late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser as a historic one, adding that Egyptians fought in more than one war to confirm our sovereignty over the canal and the entire land of Sinai.

“It is not possible after all that has been done to give up the Suez Canal or any of its assets. The constitution and the people protect it,” the SCA chairman stressed.

The proposed fund, which would be established in accordance with a bill presented by the cabinet and passed in principle by parliament earlier this week, aims to help the SCA deal with emergencies, absorb external shocks, and enhance its contribution to the national economy, Rabie asserted.

The bill, which is still pending final approval from parliament and a ratification from the president, would establish a fund with a licensed capital of EGP 100 billion and a paid-up capital of EGP 10 billion, according to a 19-page report prepared by the House's Economic Affairs Committee.

The amended Article 15 of the SCA law states that the proposed fund's financial proceeds will come from its capital, the SCA's financial profits, investment in the stock market, and selling and leasing SCA assets.

The SCA chairman said that the fund aims to invest part of its resources in developing the authority and its projects in the interests of the Egyptian people, in addition to helping confront any crises and emergencies, given the sudden crises that emerged in recent years, including the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and the six-day grounding of the ship Ever Given in 2021.

The SCA’s project would be supported by the fund instead of relying on the government, he added.

The proposed fund will also never allow foreign investors to impose their opinions on the canal authority, and all workers at the waterway are Egyptian and “we will never allow a change of the canal’s identity,” he added.

Rabie explained that the SCA does not currently allow any of its foreign partners in SCA’s projects to have control over its sovereign decisions.

The fund’s money will not be taken from the nearly 85 percent of the SCA’s revenues that go to the state every fiscal year, but from the surpluses of the SCA’s budget that go to operating projects and worker salaries.

Rabie said the idea for the fund was first tabled during a meeting with President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi in 2019 when his tenure as SCA chairman began.

The chairman explained that he informed the president during that meeting that the SCA does not have money saved for emergencies.

According to Rabie, the president instructed that cash surpluses should be used to establish a fund and increase its financial solvency over three to four years to EGP 300-400 million in order to counter any emergencies and not be reliant on the state’s budget.

Rabie also asserted that the fund is independent from the Suez Canal Authority and its assets, and that it will be audited by the country’s Central Auditing Agency.

The fund will also have a board of directors and experts in investment, economics and law from outside the SCA.

Rabie cited Article 43 of the Egyptian constitution, which says “the state is committed to protecting, developing, and preserving the Suez Canal as an international waterway owned by it, and it is also committed to developing the canal sector, as it is a distinguished economic centre.”

The Suez Canal – which connects the Mediterranean and the Red Seas – is the shortest maritime route between Asia and Europe and is the fastest crossing from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean.

Around 12 percent of the world’s trade passes through the canal.

The Suez Canal is one of Egypt’s main sources of foreign currency.

In 2022, the Suez Canal’s revenue hit a record $7.9 billion, up from $6.3 billion in the previous year.

The total number of vessels that crossed the canal this year reached 23,400, up from 21,700 in 2021.

Meanwhile, total cargoes that crossed the canal this year hit a record high of 1,420 billion tons, up from 1,220 billion tons in 2021.

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