The 1.5m-fed­dan project: chal­lenges post­pone im­ple­ment­ing pres­i­dent’s megapro­ject

TRANS­PARENCY, EN­CROACH­MENTS ARE THE MAIN IS­SUES OF THE PROJECT

The Daily News Egypt - - Business - By Hisham Salah

On 30 Oc­to­ber 2015, Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah Al-Sisi in­au­gu­rated the 1.5mfed­dan recla­ma­tion project, which is one of three im­por­tant megapro­jects he an­nounced.

How­ever, on Sun­day, the pres­i­dent seemed not too sat­is­fied about what the govern­ment had achieved with the project so far.

He stressed that if the New Egyp­tian Coun­try­side De­vel­op­ment (NECD) con­tin­ued to work with the cur­rent rate, noth­ing would hap­pen to the project, not­ing that he is “not happy” with the cur­rent sys­tem of al­lo­cat­ing land ar­eas and acres.

He added that by the end of the cur­rent month,the mil­i­tary and po­lice will get in­volved to take the land ar­eas back to the NECD if they are not li­censed or grow­ing any agri­cul­tural crops.

But what has the NECD im­ple­mented up un­til now for megapro­ject? And what do ex­perts cur­rently think about the project? Will it get es­tab­lished as the way the pres­i­dent promised?

Daily News Egypt asked ex­perts about the project and the best ways of solv­ing its cur­rent prob­lems dur­ing 2017, the year of reap­ing the ben­e­fits of re­forms, as the govern­ment called it.

Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah Al-Sisi has pro­posed the megapro­ject as a ma­jor idea for in­creas­ing the agri­cul­tural area in Egypt.

Al-Sisi added that the ar­eas will be sold to peo­ple, which will make the project both an in­vest­ment to the coun­try in se­cur­ing enough food for its peo­ple as well as an in­vest­ment in the Egyp­tian econ­omy.

The govern­ment was sup­posed to pro­vide sub­sidised land ar­eas to en­able more pur­chases, and the pres­i­dent promised that the agri­cul­tural lands will give farm­ers more eco­nomic sta­bil­ity, as well as pro­vide places of res­i­dence and ser­vices to them and their fam­i­lies.

How­ever, on 21 Oc­to­ber 2016, the head of New Egyp­tian Coun­try­side De­vel­op­ment (NECD), At­ter Hannoura, an­nounced the of­fer­ing of 500,000 fed­dans as part of the project’s first phase, at a price of EGP 5,000 per fed­dan.

And in spite of the ef­forts Hannoura put into the project, some ex­perts be­lieve there are lots of ques­tions about the project that must be an­swered.

The ex­ec­u­tive chair­per­son of Union Cap­i­tal In­cor­po­rated (UC), Hany Taw­fik, said that the govern­ment did not study the project well, adding that the govern­ment should have done so. He added that the govern­ment should have also pub­lished the re­sults of the study to be ac­ces­si­ble by any­one be­long­ing to the so­ci­ety, ex­perts as well as in­vestors.

He ex­plained that no one from the govern­ment has cre­ated or re­leased any fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies to the pub­lic, which does not re­flect trans­parency from their end.

Taw­fik said that if the govern­ment wants to grow wheat, it would not be the best idea, be­cause im­port­ing it will save far more for the coun­try, which it needs in the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion. He also ex­plained that the big­gest wheat ex­porters rely on grow­ing wheat by util­is­ing rain, which re­duces the costs of grow­ing it and, con­se­quently, its price.

No one knows what the govern­ment wants to plant on the 1.5m fed­dans, and the govern­ment has to tell us what it wants to gain from the project as a fi­nal re­sult, ei­ther by help­ing to guar­an­tee self-sus­tain­abil­ity or by ex­port­ing to cre­ate a source of for­eign cur­rency, said Taw­fik.

It is worth men­tion­ing that the NECD is will­ing to sign an agree­ment with Wa­genin­gen Uni­ver­sity to plan for the 1.5m-fed­dan recla­ma­tion project, ac­cord­ing to Hannoura.

He added that Wa­genin­gen Uni­ver­sity is the only higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion in the Nether­lands that fo­cuses specif­i­cally on healthy food and the liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment and that it should help the govern­ment to plan the project.

Hannoura stated in Novem­ber 2016 that plan­ning the project is what the com­pany will do in or­der

Hannoura said that the govern­ment has taken back ap­prox­i­mately 40,000 un­li­censed fed­dans in Al Moghra and in the gover­norate

to pre­vent the un­stud­ied plant­ing of un­nec­es­sary plants that will waste a lot of the ground­wa­ter used for ir­ri­ga­tion, which the project is mainly relying on.

He be­lieves that plants that con­sume high quan­ti­ties of wa­ter should not be al­lowed. In­stead, NECD will study which plants are suit­able to be planted and which are not, ac­cord­ing to avail­able ground­wa­ter and peo­ple’s needs.

Hannoura also wanted to help the in­vestors in fi­nanc­ing their own projects. He said that the com­pany asked the Cen­tral Bank of Egypt (CBE) to pro­vide fi­nanc­ing for small in­vestors, ex­plain­ing that the com­pany will also ne­go­ti­ate with the So­cial Fund for De­vel­op­ment (SFD) for the same pur­pose.

How­ever, all of the pre­vi­ous ef­forts seemed not enough to help the project get fin­ished at the rate Al-Sisi wants.

In his speech last week, Al-Sisi seemed up­set about the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion of the project. He added that the cur­rent rate of get­ting the work done is not enough, adding that if the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues, the project will never see the light.

The pres­i­dent or­dered the army and po­lice to re­claim any un­li­censed lands, adding that the peo­ple have to le­galise the land ar­eas they have taken.

He noted that the cur­rent month is the dead­line for them to get li­censes for their land ar­eas.

Hannoura said that the govern­ment has taken back ap­prox­i­mately 40,000 un­li­censed fed­dans in Al Moghra and in the gover­norate of Al Minya.

He added that the com­pany will ask the govern­ment to use satel­lites to iden­tify un­li­censed lands by the end of the cur­rent month.

Hannoura added that the govern­ment will pro­vide some land for the peo­ple in Ra­madan.

The com­pany wants to guar­an­tee the project’s sus­tain­abil­ity be­fore ex­it­ing as a gov­ern­men­tal com­pany, Hannoura noted.

From an­other point of view, Ga­mal Seyam, a pro­fes­sor of agri­cul­tural eco­nomics at Cairo Uni­ver­sity, has pre­vi­ously told Daily News Egypt that the project up un­til now is “char­ac­terised by chaos and is im­pro­vised to a large ex­tent.”

He crit­i­cised the lack of trans­parency of the projects, adding that the project’s vi­sion is not yet clear and does not have a spe­cific tar­get or goal.

He be­lieves that the govern­ment must make sure the project is trans­par­ent and that it must have all of its stud­ies avail­able for ex­perts and in­vestors.

How­ever, the for­mer min­is­ter of ir­ri­ga­tion, Nasr Al­lam, is not sat­is­fied re­gard­ing the ac­tions the govern­ment is im­ple­ment­ing up un­til now.

In spite of pres­i­den­tial state­ments, the real sit­u­a­tion of land is not as good as the govern­ment is telling the peo­ple, he added.

He stated that dur­ing the past decades, Egyp­tian pres­i­dents an­nounced many huge and mega projects, es­pe­cially in the field of agriculture since 1952,start­ing with the pop­u­lar land re­form un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Ga­mal Ab­del Nasser, the Sal­i­hiya un­der An­war Al-Sa­dat, and the pop­u­lar Toshka project un­der for­mer pres­i­dent Hosni Mubarak.

He added that the pre­vi­ous projects did not meet their goals, ex­plain­ing that in some cases, the projects even col­lapsed, such as the project of Toshka.

The pre­vi­ous me­dia con­sul­tant at the Min­istry of Agriculture Eid Hawash has em­pha­sised that there is no his­tor­i­cal prob­lems that could face the cur­rent 1.5m-fed­dan recla­ma­tion project. He said that “this project can’t be compared to pre­vi­ous projects, such as Toshka, which failed due to the ab­sence of rig­or­ous control and su­per­vi­sion,as well as other po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives. It is not the case this time.”

He be­lieves that the govern­ment has done many fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies for the project to en­sure that it will be of great suc­cess and to pre­vent the same thing that happened to pre­vi­ous projects to hap­pen again.

The 1.5m fed­dans is a megapro­ject pro­posed by Al-Sisi.This project came along­side other projects, such as the New Suez Canal and de­vel­op­ing its zone; de­vel­op­ing the golden tri­an­gle; and es­tab­lish­ing the New Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cap­i­tal.

The megapro­jects are sup­posed to im­prove the cur­rent eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion, cre­ate job op­por­tu­ni­ties, and in­crease the GDP growth rate, as the pres­i­dent an­nounced when he came to of­fice—which, in his opin­ion, would meet the peo­ple’s calls for re­forms that re­sulted in the Jan­uary 25 rev­o­lu­tion.

ON 30 OC­TO­BER 2015, PRES­I­DENT AB­DEL FAT­TAH AL-SISI IN­AU­GU­RATED THE 1.5M-FED­DAN RECLA­MA­TION PROJECT

THE CUR­RENT MONTH IS THE DEAD­LINE FOR THEM TO GET LI­CENSED FOR THEIR LAND AR­EAS

HANNOURA

SAID THAT THE

GOVERN­MENT

WILL PRO­VIDE

SOME LAND

FOR THE

PEO­PLE IN

RA­MADAN

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