In the international press, bad news tends to overshadow good news in general.
When it comes to the Middle East and its population, on the other hand, there is barely room for anything but bad news. International media coverage of Egypt, for example, is always sparse, and what little international readers do read will not be about such positive matters as the major economic development projects that have been unfolding in the country during the past few years.
Regional conflicts and rights issues prevail over local Egyptian concerns, sadly. In fact, last week saw the launch of a number of new national projects in a range of areas from food asecurity to granite and marble production.
On Saturday, Al-Fayrouz fish farming project was inaugurated at East of Al-Tafreah in the Port Said governorate. The largest project of its kind in the Middle East, it “adds a new accomplishment to the series of large-scale development achievements that Egypt has experienced in recent years,” said a statement released by the president’s office.
“This mega project contributes huge added value to the development of the Suez Canal zone and the Sinai Peninsula through the construction of new industrial and urban communities. The project will generate 10,000 job opportunities directly and indirectly in numerous professions and specialisations related to this field.”
In the realm of food security too the government announced that it set in motion a project to have 100,000 acres of land in Sinai cultivated before 30 June 2021. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi also simultaneously unveiled the high-speed rail project which could take people from Cairo to Aswan in just four hours. “By the end of 2021 there will be no more old trains in operation,” the president said.
President Al-Sisi has spoken at length about an ambitious drive to remedy many longstanding problems in rural Egypt in the next three years. A range of modernisation projects will overhaul the infrastructure of Egyptian villages, lining open irrigation canals to prevent seepage, saving three billion cubic metres of water. With regard to the latter project, the president said: “We are working to restructure water, not to encroach on others’ water.”
The problem-solving development approach exemplified by the village development project is grounded in a comprehensive, integrated strategy to harmonise the efforts of all government agencies involved. It is a strategy that promotes high performance, rapid progress and governance in every component of the project with the aim of realising radical change in all aspects of rural life.
Improving rural standards of living is long overdue after decades of neglect for the needs of the countryside, a neglect that was inevitably manifested in sharply declining economic and human development rates. The first phase of the village development project targets 1,500 villages across the country for the renovation and construction of water, electricity, natural gas and wastewater disposal as well as road grids and networks, and for the development of education, healthcare and social welfare systems.
News of such ambitious projects are unlikely to find their way into the international press and media even though, if they are to see the bigger picture, it is important for readers to know about all political, social and economic aspects of life in Egypt. The tendency of foreign media is to home in on particular issues for years on end. In Egypt’s case the choice of most of these is influenced by Islamist agendas.
The focus is so blinkered and the glare so harsh that one sees only a distorted sliver of the picture. Political and media circles abroad need to reexamine the concept of human rights, which is a cornerstone of the philosophy of government in Egypt today.
Only with a fuller, more comprehensive concept can they assess Egypt. The reports issued by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and international credit rating agencies speak of the degree of progress on the ground. In so doing, they draw attention to shortcomings in the international press coverage of Egypt.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 January , 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly