Due to the latest developments in the Gaza Strip Egypt will allocate $500 million for the reconstruction of the Palestinian coastal enclave. Egyptian specialised companies will participate in the reconstruction work,” the Egyptian presidency announced on its Facebook page on 18 May.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s initiative was warmly welcomed in Egyptian political and business circles. The House of Representatives issued a statement saying it fully supported the move and that “Egyptian companies should begin preparing themselves now in order to make use of the $500 million initiative and start reconstruction in Gaza.”
On 20 May the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) said private sector companies were mobilising to take advantage of the $500 million initiative while the FEI was coordinating with the relevant government departments over how best to implement the initiative and help the people in Gaza.
Tarek Shoukri, deputy chairman of parliament’s Housing Committee, said Arab Gulf countries were expected to be the first to extend financial help to the Palestinians in Gaza following its bloody 11-day war with Israel, adding that Egypt’s contribution had both strategic and humanitarian aspects.
“War in Gaza means extremism and terrorist threats for Egypt, while peace means security and prosperity for both Egypt and the Palestinians,” said Shoukri.
Shoukri, who is also head of the Chamber of Real Estate Development at the FEI, said the $500 million is most likely to be spent on reconstruction work implemented by Egyptian companies.
Omar Sabbour, a member of the Association of Egyptian Businessmen, said the stipulation that Egyptian companies implement reconstruction projects in Gaza reflects the president and the government’s keenness to allow national companies to play a leading role in development projects not just in Gaza but across the Arab world, the Middle East, and Africa.
He added that “a business and government delegation should visit Gaza soon to estimate the damage caused by the Israeli aggression on housing and public utilities” and underlined the extensive experience of local companies in implementing reconstruction work in Arab countries — Libya, Iraq and Syria — devastated by conflict.
United Nations officials say intense Israeli bombing of the Gaza Strip damaged housing, health, education and energy facilities, killed more than 230 Palestinians, including 65 children, damaged 17 hospitals, and water pipes, and wrecked water and sewage systems. The UN estimates more than 100,000 people lost their homes, and 800,000 now live without piped water. The UN children’s agency UNICEF has calculated that at least $2 billion will be needed to repair the damage.
Ahmed Hossam Awad, a member of the Reconstruction and Building Committee at the Egyptian Businessmen Association, argues that Gaza’s proximity means Egyptian companies enjoy a competitive advantage when it comes to undertaking construction projects in the Strip and “local real estate developers, house builders, contractors, and building material suppliers are all poised to help out.” He pointed out that “the private sector is already heavily involved in carrying out giant projects like the building of the New Administrative Capital” and would make use of its accumulated expertise in Gaza.
“Reconstruction work in Gaza must initially focus on rehabilitating basic infrastructure, particularly water and sewage stations,” says Awad, while other major work remains contingent on a political solution to the conflict.
Ibrahim Al-Arabi, head of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, believes the initiative will give a much needed to boost to local cement, iron and steel producers by “Israel must first lift its blockade in order to facilitate the entry of these materials.”
The $500 million initiative also includes training programmes for Palestinians in implementing development programmes, to be provided by the National Training Academy (NTA), in partnership with major international institutions.
Meanwhile, four political parties — Mostaqbal Watan (Future of the Homeland), the Guardians of the Nation, the People’s Republican Party, and the Political Parties’ Youth Coordination Committee —teamed up this week to send humanitarian aid convoys to Gaza.
Ashraf Rashad, Mostaqbal Watan deputy chairman, said the convoys will complement the $500 million presidential initiative and “210 trucks loaded with food and medical supplies” had already been dispatched.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 27 May, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly