File Photo: Ships pass through the Suez canal. Photo courtesy of Suez Canal Authority Facebook page.
El-Sisi's comment is his first about the fund, which raised controversy over the past week following rumours that the step could be a prelude for the sale of the canal or its assets.
The rumours were dismissed by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) chairman Osama Rabie on Thursday, who said that the country would never give up sovereignty of the canal.
The proposed fund, which would be established in accordance with a bill presented by the cabinet and passed in principle by parliament last week, aims to help the SCA to improve the canal without burdening the country's budget, El-Sisi explained.
El-Sisi said the proposal should have been explained first to the media and press before being sent to the parliament in order to assure the public.
During Monday’s event, El-Sisi pointed out that the idea for the fund was first tabled in 2019 when Rabie informed the president that the SCA did not have money to develop the canal or carry out projects on its own.
The bill, pending final approval from parliament and 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 proposed amendment to Article 15 of the SCA law states that the fund's financial proceeds would come from its capital, the SCA's financial profits, investment in the stock market and selling and leasing SCA assets.
El-Sisi said such an approach is an attempt to impose fewer burdens on the country's budget, noting that the same scheme was implemented by the Ministry of Health to help cover the neediest categories in the country's universal health insurance system as well as finance ventures and upgrade the efficiency of hospitals.
The solvency of the health ministry's fund hit around EGP 70 billion, said the president.
El-Sisi said the SCA generated $200-220 billion since its second inauguration in 1975, noting that if only 10 per cent of this sum had been saved, the SCA could have possessed now up to $50 billion.
El-Sisi assured the public that no money would be taken from the proposed fund according to the agreed rules.
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 per cent 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, this year, total cargoes that crossed the canal hit a record high of 1,420 billion tons, up from 1,220 billion tons in 2021.