Egypt presidency promises to restore Port Said duty-free zone

Ahram Online, Tuesday 19 Feb 2013

In bid to appease Egypt's restive canal cities, President Morsi pledges LE400 mn/year of canal revenues to development of Port Said, Suez, Ismailia

Protesters opposing Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi fly a flag carrying the words 'Port Said State' (Photo: Reuters)

Egypt's presidency released a statement on Tuesday outlining a proposed development plan targeting Egypt's three canal cities (Port Said, Ismailia and Suez).  

In the statement, the presidency vowed to prepare draft legislation aimed at the re-establishment of Port Said's duty-free zone, which was shut down in 2002 to the chagrin of the city's residents.  

The presidency also pledged to allocate LE400 million a year of Suez Canal revenues to the development of the canal cities and the creation of employment opportunities for local youth.

The presidency's statement followed three consecutive days of 'civil disobedience' by anti-government protesters, which has paralysed Port Said and caused financial losses worth an estimated $18 million, according to Magdi Kamel, general director of the Egyptian Businessmen's Association.

The canal cities have been in a state of unrest since 21 Port Said residents were sentenced to death on 26 January for their involvement in last year's football stadium disaster in which 70 rival fans were killed. Ensuing clashes in Port Said have resulted in the death of 40 people, including security personnel.

Ibrahim El-Masry, a former Masry Club football player and spokesman for the protesters in Port Said, rejected the president's initiative.

"This is too little, too late," El-Masry told Ahram Online. "These are the basic rights of Port Said."

He added: "We still want those who killed protestors to be prosecuted and compensation for the martyrs' families."

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