CAIRO: Egypt will continue selling land to foreign investors in new urban communities, said Ahmed El-Maghraby, minister of housing, utilities and urban communities. His statement was a response to a question posed by a French investor on whether there are alternatives to bids and closed envelopes for foreigners looking to buy land in Egypt. Speaking at the Club D’Affaires Franco-Egyptien (CAFE) Tuesday, Maghraby called on investors to suggest alternatives that the government can study and apply if suitable. The housing ministry aims to attract foreign investors to help create more job opportunities and boost the Egyptian economy. The revenue from selling land in new urban communities goes to financing vital projects that will improve living standards in poor areas, said El-Maghraby.In a speech to CAFE, El-Maghraby explained that the housing ministry works to cover the demand for land and housing units across the country, namely in new cities. Secondly, it focuses its efforts on improving the quality of infrastructure in water, waste water, and other public services. El-Maghraby had been accused by some MPs and independent newspapers of wasting land that the younger generation can utilize and of raising the prices to LE 4,000 a meter after he sold about 3,000 acres to Arab investors with that price. His policy of selling land to investors at a special rate was also exploited by some brokers who deceived investors convincing them of being able to offer them state land at lesser prices.There is a pressing need for civil society to have a better understanding of what the ministry is doing; “the unhappy news: We are not persuaded by greedy investors, he said.He assured that there is no risk in selling 4,000 acres to investors in a country whose area reaches some 240 million acres of desert land.”I assure you.that no foreigner can take the land he bought out of the borders of Egypt, he sarcastically told a laughing audience.”This is not really a concern, he said.The ministry’s policies have actually “resulted in growth reaching over 16 percent in building and construction this past year. From 30,000 acres sold in the last 22 months, 55 percent were allocated for the lower-income bracket at a price of LE 52 per meter payable over 10 years, he said. Another 17 percent were sold to the middle-class bracket at an average price of LE 290 per meter.”We are offering land below prices to cover housing needs, he explained. At the same time, approximately 27 percent were sold to investors with the aim of “getting the best price for the property. Some pieces of land were sold for LE 540 per meter, while others went for LE 890. Moreover, 80 acres located in prime commercial locations were priced at LE 4,005. Revenues from these sales were estimated at LE 17 billion, said El-Maghraby.In answer to a query by Mahmoud Al-Kaissy – head of the Egyptian side of CAFE and deputy chairman of Medgenco International – the minister called on the French to offer their technical know-how in giving the port city of Rashid a facelift. The Rosetta Stone was found by French soldiers in 1799, and they have referred to the city as Rosetta ever since. Maghraby said plans are in place to renovate the city of Rashid in the same way Luxor was restored, bringing hotel occupancy rates to 100 percent instead of 50 percent. The meeting took place at Nile Hilton hotel, and was attended by Herve Majidier, head of the French side of CAFE and regional manager of Carrefour Egypt; Laurent Padoux, trade counselor at the French Embassy in Cairo; and Ibrahim Mehleb, chairman of the Arab Contractors Company.