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Finance Minister Hany Kadry Dimian has stated that Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb formed a “quartet committee” comprising the ministers of investment, industry and planning, alongside Kadry, to ensure a rapid acquisition of the required funding for the expansion and drilling of the new canal, with an estimated value of EGP 60bn. The decision was carried out after consultations with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
In early August Al-Sisi inaugurated the project to dig a new canal while also expanding the Suez Canal. The entire project will raise revenue from the canal from the current $5bn to an estimated $13bn, due to an increase in ships passing through the canal, global trade volume, and transport and trade fees.
Kadry believes that financing the Suez Canal project requires large sums of money, for which the government has sought the help of its citizens. Government banks will therefore be issuing investment certificates with 12% returns next week to individuals and institutions on behalf of the Suez Canal Authority.
Commenting on the government’s proposal to finance the canal through investment certificates and not through shares, Kadry stated that the decision was made to ensure national security, in order to protect the project from exposure to vacillating shareholders or the sale of shares to foreigners.
He added that the yield on the certificates would be in dollars, and the estimated 3.5% interest rate is not as low as alleged by some because the certificates are government-ensured. He confirmed that the Suez Canal Authority will pay the returns on the certificates until the project itself provides the funding for the returns.
Hany Tawfik, head of the Egyptian Direct Investment Association, has stated that the cost of financing the project, EGP 60bn, is no small amount, and will inevitably put pressure on the liquidity available in the banking system. Individuals will not be able to provide this funding alone, he said. In addition, he believes the project will put pressure on the private sector’s access to finance and banking, reducing the levels of liquidity available to finance debt.
Tawfik wants the government to allow foreigners to buy certificates instead of limiting itself to Egyptians only, so as to ensure Egyptians that attracting new liquidity from outside the banking system is possible. However he would hope the procedure provides ceilings to foreign ownership on the certificates, limiting how and whom these certificates could be sold to by foreigners.
Tawfiz suggested a limited listing and trading of the certificates within the stock exchange, stating that the expansion and drilling project is huge and will take place on both sides of the channel. Thus, huge investments from internal and external actors should be encouraged so as to provide a competitive investment environment and attract other countries to the project.
He added that Egypt’s success in attracting investment to finance its projects will not depend on patriotic slogans, but rather on feasibility studies on the economic and financial environment and an improvement in business practices in Egypt, which together will help revive confidence in the Egyptian economy.
Some experts have described the project as a nationalistic venture because, in reality, the economic feasibility studies have not provided any clear evidence on how the project would be completed, or on how it would increase revenue to $13bn.
Fakhry Al-Fiki, former assistant executive director of the International Monetary Fund, has stated that he believes that despite its risks the canal project, especially given that the implementation period has been reduced significantly, could be a good investment opportunity. In particular, he believes that holders of investment certificates will benefit because their returns are guaranteed by both the Suez Canal Authority and the government.
He wonders, however, on what criteria the government is making this particular project a priority, “not because I object to it, but want to understand the government’s direction, especially since the country is suffering darkness in factories and homes because of a chronic power crisis.”
In a press statement last week, Mehleb said that the Suez Canal project will contribute to lowering the high unemployment rates in the country, by providing a variety of job opportunities to Egyptians.
State security has launched a crackdown on what it is calling a new jihadist cell in Cairo and Giza, which is calling itself the Helwan Brigades, a Ministry of Interior source told Youm7.
A video published by the group Aug. 14 showed a dozen masked youth holding automatic weapons. One of them, Magdy Fonia, kept threatening and inciting against police and army forces, saying that the police were torturing citizens assisted by the army and they have killed protesters in peaceful marches.
The video was released a few hours after the killing of a police officer in Helwan and the injury of another. However, the Helwan Brigades were not accused of targeting the victims, Al-Masry Al-Youmreported.
The source told Youm7 that security arrested five new members of the group Tuesday and they are being interrogated by the National Security Agency.
He added that Fonia was among the arrested members and that security had managed to identify 20 other suspects.
Ministry of Interior deputy Maj. Gen. Sayed Shafiq told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the crackdown on the Helwan Brigades lasted for seven days in seven different governorates and that security is still pursuing eight of the men in the video.
Additional reporting by Ahmed Marie.
By DALIA FAROUK
CAIRO: A protocol to recycle cement dust by incorporating it into road construction was signed Tuesday between Alexandria Portland Cement and The Arab Contractors companies in the presence of Environment Minister Khaled Fahmy.
A ministry press release documenting the signing said the agreement not only makes use of cement dust—a byproduct of cement production—but also helps the environment, as cement dust left unused can have negative health effects and would otherwise just be buried underground.
Ibrahim Hussein, the former head of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency in Upper Egypt, told The Cairo Post Tuesday that cement factories are one of the biggest polluters in Egypt, in no small part due to cement dust.
Hussein said the dust and other ingredients used in cement production can cause congenital pneumonia—usually in factory workers—but also sometimes in residents living near factories and disposal sites.
Fahmy said in press statements Tuesday the new protocol ensures cement dust will be recycled into road pavement, which he said was environmentally friendly and negated its potential ill health effects.
Hussein agreed, telling The Cairo Post that recycling the dust and using it in other industries will minimize the hazards of improper disposal measures. Burying the dust he said often pollutes the surrounding land and makes it unsuitable for living and agriculture.
He also said using the dust in the manufacture of cement tiles used in paving roads will minimize the cost of the pavement process.
Hussein added the tiles could be exported in the future to create a new source of income.
The agreement is expected to provide road projects with between 150 to 300 tons of cement dust daily, according to the Environmental Ministry statement.
It added that in Cairo alone, 3,000 tons of cement dust was produced daily in cement production, and disposing of it properly will minimize pollution.