- The Egyptian Army Is Making a Fortune in Sinai
by Zvi Bar’el, https://www.haaretz.com/
Cairo sees investment in the peninsula as an investment in national security, but the military receives tax and other benefits that crowd out the private sector
“You can’t even imagine the amounts of money that we’ve invested in Sinai,” said Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi at the National Youth Conference in Cairo on Saturday.
Sissi said tens of billions of Egyptian pounds had been allotted to develop the Sinai Peninsula as part of the grandiose plan he announced in 2018. The Egyptian development minister added that in next year’s budget some $318 million had been allocated to projects in Sinai, some 75 percent more than for last year. Half the money is for the north and the rest for the center and south.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are partners in some of the projects and the rest are being funded by the government as part of its policy that sees investment in Sinai as an investment in national security.
There’s a gap between the government’s declarations and implementation, but it seems Sissi is the first Egyptian president since the Camp David Accords returned the peninsula to Egypt who plans to invest seriously in an area considered the most neglected in terms of government investment.
Two important endeavors in the works are the New Rafah and New Bir al-Abed projects, where more than 10,000 apartments are to be built. These are to provide housing for the thousands of families who were expelled from the Sinai-Gaza border area so the military could establish a security zone several kilometers wide to stop the movement of militants between the two areas.
Infrastructure investments aren’t enough to create jobs for thousands of unemployed young people in northern Sinai. The state is trying to encourage foreign and Egyptian investors to build factories and service centers, it’s setting up free trade zones, and it’s promising incentives to investors in northern Sinai. But investors aren’t rushing in, mainly because of the security threats and the transportation difficulties between Sinai and Egypt.