Egypt seeks cash, prestige boost with 'new Suez Canal'

2015-08-04 12:16

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Cairo - Egypt on Thursday inaugurates a "new Suez Canal" waterway touted as an achievement rivalling the digging of the original, as it seeks to boost both its economy and international standing.

The ceremony, to be attended by foreign dignitaries, including French President Francois Hollande, comes just over two years after President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former military chief, overthrew his Islamist predecessor.

Sisi broke ground on the project last August after winning a presidential election on promises of strengthening security and reviving the ailing economy.

The new 72km waterway, built in less than a year at a cost of $9bn, runs part of the way alongside the existing canal connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

It will cut the waiting period for vessels from 18 hours to 11.

By 2023 the number of ships using the canal will increase to 97 per day from the current 49, the Suez Canal Authority website said.

"It sends a message to the public and foreign investors that the government is capable of accomplishing something in a set calendar," Amr Adly of the Carnegie Middle East Center told AFP.

"Since [former president Mohammed] Morsi's ouster the new regime is engaged in a political conflict to prove its legitimacy inside and outside Egypt."

"The ability to accomplish such an economic project is part of cementing this legitimacy."

Ambitious target

Sisi set an ambitious target of digging the waterway in just a year despite an initial estimate it would take up to three years.

Officials say the entire funding for the project was raised in six days by selling investment certificates to domestic investors.

It involved 37km of dry digging and 35km of expansion and deepening of the existing canal.

Preparations for Thursday's lavish opening are in full swing in the port city of Ismailiya.

At least 10 000 policemen will stand guard across six provinces as Sisi opens the ceremony by joining a naval parade, state media said.

Newly bought French Rafale warplanes and US F-16s delivered by Washington last week will also be on display.

Banners saying "New Suez Canal: From Egypt to the World" have been put up at Cairo airport, and hundreds of Egyptian flags grace the capital's streets.

The opening comes amid a rapprochement between the West and Sisi's regime, although Washington remains critical of the country's human rights situation.

A police crackdown targeting Morsi supporters has killed hundreds and seen thousands jailed.

Militants have killed scores of policemen and soldiers, mostly in the Sinai Peninsula that lies between Israel, the Gaza Strip and the Suez Canal.

In July, the Islamic State group affiliate in Egypt claimed a missile attack that destroyed an Egyptian naval vessel off North Sinai.

Suez Canal Authority chief Mohab Mameesh has declared the new waterway "safe" after conducting a trial run.

External factors

The expanded canal is considered a "national project" that aims to revive an economy battered by political upheaval since the 2011 ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

It is part of a plan to develop the surrounding area into an industrial and commercial hub that would include the construction of ports and provide shipping services.

The government is aiming for an annual gross domestic product growth rate of seven percent for an economy traditionally driven by tourism and canal revenues.

Tourism has plummeted, however, with last year's 10 million visitors sharply down from 2010 when 15 million foreigners visited Egypt.

The authorities hope the new waterway will more than double Suez earnings from $5.3 billion expected at the end of 2015 to $13.2bn in 2023.

Mameesh said about a million jobs are expected to be created around the canal over the next 15 years.

Analysts doubt the forecasts.

"There will be an increase in revenues, but are these figures credible?" asked Carnegie's Adly.

"It's not just about the increase in traffic... it's also related to external factors such as growth in global trade itself."

Built 146 years ago, the original canal is one of the world's most heavily used shipping lanes and a key focus of international trade.

Its expansion is a major achievement for Sisi, but Egypt needs many projects to turn around its dilapidated economy, Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics and Political Science told AFP.

"The administration will capitalise on this project to showcase economic growth, but it is unlikely to resolve challenges facing the economy," he said.

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  francois hollande  |  abdel fattah al-sisi  |  hosni mubarak  |  egypt  |  north africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


WATCH: Man films himself going down water slide upside down as things go very wrong…

What is at first an exciting tummy-turning adventure stunt, quickly turns into a scarily bad idea caught on camera. Take a look:


You won't want to miss...

WATCH: Conor McGregor: Notorious the trailer
Best date night restaurants in South Africa
WATCH: Ryan Reynolds offers fans a free tattoo in new Deadpool 2 teaser
Should you date your co-worker?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.