By Maha AbdelAzim
The Egyptian government has announced that 14 out of 25 joint ventures have qualified for the right to participate in the Suez Canal Development Project, according to state-run newspaper Al-Ahram.
The winner will receive the final contract in October, and will have nine months to submit an initial plan for the project, according to a previous statement by the project’s technical secretariat chairman, Walid Abd Al-Ghaffar.
The project entails massive development plans, including the construction of four new seaports in the three provinces surrounding the canal, a new industrial zone west of the Gulf of Suez, and a “technology valley” in Ismailia which will “host several technology projects.”.
The Egyptian cabinet issued a statement that this project will present many advantages including industrialising the region and providing it with technical training facilities, creating job opportunities to combat unemployment, and attracting investment, all of which will boost the Egyptian economy and national income.
Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi stated that the joint ventures were selected based on “unified, objective and neutral criteria that took Egyptian national security into account”. He added that the plan submitted for the project will be presented to the cabinet for discussion.
Former-Member of Parliament and member of the Popular Front for the Suez Canal Abdel Hameed Kamal stated that the project in whole is a positive step, but should have been announced only after dialogue with representatives of the people in the region, a step which still needs to be taken.
“It is essential for the contractors to understand the needs of the area, including the most-needed industries, the importance of labour-intensive projects, environmental regulations and so forth, in addition to lessons from the mistakes of previous projects in the region.”
He added that further dialogue was needed to reevaluate past projects that had several problems including “lack of planning; there were often factories for food processing located next to steel or petroleum factories”.
An advisory team that had been appointed to oversee the project resigned in April, stating that the government was moving forward without its input. They also cited possible damages to the area northwest of the Suez Gulf.