Bright future for Egypt
Egypt marks two years of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s tenure. It’s been a tough road in many respects, but his shoulders have been sufficiently broad to bear the heavy weight of unforeseen incidents dragging on the economy. Unfortunately, the foreign media tends to overlook the good news preferring to focus on the bad.
However, his government’s achievements are many, which the majority of Egyptians appreciate and few outsiders even know about. A newly released poll by the independent Egyptian Centre for Public Opinion Research, known as Baseera, indicates President El-Sisi enjoys a 91 percent approval rating, up from 78 percent in April — a fall that media pundits interpreted as the start of a slippery slide. They’ve been proved wrong.
Egypt’s transformation is underway. It’s a very different place from a few years ago when the Brotherhood’s pick was in charge. Despite existing problems, hope is in the air. There are no more lengthy electricity blackouts, hours-long queues for petrol and no more shortages of cooking gas or bread. Prices of imported goods have increased due to the devaluation of the currency but that too will pass.
Most importantly, it’s now safe to walk the streets at night and apart from areas reliant upon tourism stricken by the fallout from the downing of a Russian passenger jet, it’s very much business as usual.
Cairo that just a few years ago was a ghost town after 10 p.m. has regained its reputation as the city that never sleeps. Alexandria buzzes with energy. People are out and about at all hours shopping, eating or socializing with friends or enjoying a day at the beach.
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Egyptians express gratitude that their country was saved from descending into violence like others in the region less fortunate. This is President El-Sisi’s supreme achievement.
Great strides are being made to fulfill the country’s energy requirements. The biggest offshore gas field, discovered by the Italian energy company Eni, is set to begin production at the end of 2017. Concessions have also been awarded for the research and exploration of oil. A contract has been signed with Russia to build a nuclear plant on the northern coast. The government is also focusing on alternative energy sources such as solar and wind farms. Since El-Sisi took office electricity production has more than doubled.
For many decades Egypt has been the world’s largest importer of wheat. That’s about to change. Last month, the President celebrated the first harvest of wheat from the Sahl Baraka project that aims to reclaim 1.5 feddans of arid land for agricultural purposes in the Western Desert. New communities will be established, the residents provided with brand new low-rise housing, schools and medical facilities.
What has touched hearts is the President’s emotional pledge that in two years time no slums presenting a danger to inhabitants will exist. The first and second phases of the Tahya Misr project consisting of 15,000 fully furnished apartments are completed and keys are being handed over to Cairo’s poorest who’ve barely been eking out a living in the mountainous era of Mokattam, many surviving in caves or windowless mud dwellings without electricity or running water for most of their lives. Relevant ministers have been tasked with the redevelopment of 156 slum areas next year and slums in Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, Marsa Matrouh and Aswan will be bulldozed, the residents re-housed.
Egypt’s unemployment rate currently hovers around the 12 percent mark but new industrial zones are being constructed to provide jobs and boost the economy. Work continues on a 1,000 factory industrial zone in New Cairo on the outskirts of the capital and two industrial zones — one Russian, the other Chinese — are in the pipeline close to the Suez Canal. Yet another industrial zone will be established in south Sinai together with low-priced accommodation to house workers. Earlier this month, Egypt and Kuwait concluded a deal in relation to the construction of five desalination plants with varying capacities from 10,000-20,000 cubic meters of water per day.
The 30-mile-long Egypt-Saudi causeway spanning the Red Sea is guaranteed to deliver new businesses, investment, jobs and increase tourism to the southern Sinai Peninsula. Indeed, once it is completed, Egypt is poised to become a global trade hub linking Asia with Africa.
Dozens of new roads, highways and bridges have been built all over the country. Some 700 new train carriages are on order and both Cairo and Alexandria stations have been given spectacular facelifts. Cairo’s formerly shabby Downtown has been completely rejuvenated; the streets cleaned and its magnificent 19th century buildings beautifully restored.
On the diplomacy front, Egypt has secured a seat on the United Nations Security Council and has not only restored its membership of the African Union but now represents North African states within the Union’s Peace and Security Council. The country is also at the forefront of the promotion of Israel-Palestinian peace and is being “courted” by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority as a trusted broker, according to the Wall Street Journal.
There’s still a long way to go. Fixing the problems of the most populated Arab country, which as the President admits has enemies within and without, can’t occur in one day and night or even in a decade. Cash-strapped Egypt battling terrorists camped out in the north of Sinai and shoring up its military defense capabilities can’t morph into a clone of Sweden or Switzerland as regards civil liberties or human rights when a human being’s prime human rights consist of the right to a decent home, clean water, electricity and job opportunities.
Those pointing fingers screaming democracy are viewing this developing nation through an unrealistic western prism. Left alone, Egypt will evolve in its own pace and at its own time into the kind of homeland Egyptians have always longed-for. All it needs is patience.