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Egypt's Sisi appoints Mubarak-era minister head of the Suez Canal's economic zone

Aswat Masriya , Sunday 29 Nov 2015
Ahmed Darwish
Ahmed Darwish the head of the Suez Canal Economic Zone Authority (Al-Ahram)
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Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi appointed on Saturday former minister Ahmed Darwish the head of the Suez Canal Economic Zone Authority for a three-year term, as he launched what has been dubbed as a mega development project east of Port Said.

Darwish, 56, served as minister of administrative development in the last seven years of former president Hosni Mubarak's rule, and was in cabinet when Mubarak and his government were removed during the 2011 uprising.

Since 2011, he served as an international consultant across a wide variety of fields, advising on policies, strategies, governance, business processes and information technology, according to his website.

The development project east of Port Said includes the construction of a large seaport, an industrial area that can host 20 factories, a logistics hub and a residential area with 50,000 housing units.

The project is also slated to include a fish farm and tunnels below the Suez Canal.

The plans are part of a wider project, which Sisi launched in 2014, aiming to create a comprehensive global business centre out of the strategic Suez Canal and its surrounding area by providing maritime transport services.

At the launch event on Saturday El-Sisi said "we would never announce a project unless all its plans have been completed."

Initially the project was going to take three years to complete, but in a request aired live on television, El-Sisi gave directives to the armed forces' engineering authority to complete it in only two years.

In August, El-Sisi inaugurated what was dubbed the "new Suez Canal," a project involving deepening parts of the 193-kilometre waterway and building a parallel one along a 35-kilometre stretch of the canal, allowing the movement of ships in both directions.

Its delivery date was also cut short from three years to one year upon El-Sisi's orders and funded by savings certificates offering 12 percent interest through which the government collected EGP 64 billion in only eight days.

Many Egyptians believed it was their patriotic duty to help fund the project.

The Suez Canal development plans are long term and will take years to complete over two phases, the first of which is due by 2030, while the second is set to be completed by 2045.

In his speech on Saturday, El-Sisi praised the speed at which the development is moving. He said developing the Suez Canal area was a "dream" in 2002 and for 13 years, "little" was achieved.

"It could have taken 10 to 15 years," he said, "We have accomplished in two years what cannot be achieved in 10."

"We are defying the challenge itself," El-Sisi went on, saying that there are many other infrastructure projects underway simultaneously, including "more than one or two or three airports... but I won't say anymore [for fear of] evil and those who perpetrate it."  

 

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