State land protection authority expected after parliamentary elections

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CAIRO: The Egyptian government is preparing to establish a state land protection authority following next week’s parliamentary elections, the State Information Service reported.

All territories affiliated with The Ministries of Agriculture, Family and Population Affairs, Tourism, Irrigation and Water Resources, and Local Development — in addition to several other government entities — will be merged.

“It is determined that the authority will use satellite photos to track incursions as soon as they appear, and to immediately remove them, in addition to establishing an administration for the organization’s data and documents, which would maintain … maps, create a database for government lands, and employ land use experts to modernize them for development in regions targeted on the national map for various uses,” sources told independent daily Al Masry Al Youm.

“[The authority’s] role will be to delineate the areas and sites that related ministries will work with, tracking the work of these organizations to ensure compliance with general land use requirements, as well as overseeing the execution of contracts among state land beneficiaries for all purposes of comprehensive development,” sources added.

The authority would not be allowed to “impinge” upon ministerial rights.

Commenting on the news of the creation of the new land authority, Harshjit Oza, a research analyst at leading Cairo-based investment firm Beltone Financial, said in a note that the “Egyptian government has stated that it will introduce a new law to reconcile land sales that have been made through direct orders after 1998 — in line with the Tender Law — [thereby restructuring] the procedures for land sales, going forward.”

It is believed that this move, anticipated to be signed into law via presidential decree, is in direct response to the prolonged Talaat Moustafa Group’s (TMG) Madinaty development dispute.

A recent court order decided that the land development project Madinaty was illegal; the land being developed by TMG was bought directly from the Egyptian government rather than via the legal public auction route.

This dispute resulted in a major loss of investor confidence, as investors grew uneasy over the idea that other state land sales could face a similar fate.

This unease on the part of investors soon proved to be justified. According to a Reuters report earlier this month, the TMG Madinaty case brought attention to similar land development cases — most notably a land development deal involving Palm Hills Developments, Egypt’s second largest land developer.

A local court is scheduled to hear the Palm Hills dispute on Nov. 23 — the same date that another court is slated to decide on a proposed solution to the TMG Madinaty dispute, Reuters reported.

Both the TMG and Palm Hills Developments cases are the result of conflicting laws governing state land agreements, and the new legislation is set to address these inconsistencies.

Oza said that the law is “expected” to be introduced after the parliamentary elections that will take place on Nov. 28.

When asked how he believes the creation of a state land authority will impact investor confidence in the Egyptian real estate market — a sector which has been seriously undermined by the ongoing TMG Madinaty dispute — Oza said, “We have seen that the investors are concerned about the land overhand issue in Egypt, and we believe the introduction of the new law will be able to restore investor confidence in the real estate sector.”


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