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'New' Suez Canal brings moment of national pride

Updated: 2015-08-07 07:53
By Agence France-Presse in Cairo (China Daily)

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi was inaugurating a "new" Suez Canal on Thursday in a historic moment of national pride, as Egypt seeks to boost its economy and international standing.

The event, in the port city of Ismailiya, was attended by several heads of state, including French President Francois Hollande.

It comes two years after then army chief el-Sissi overthrew his Islamist predecessor. The president broke ground on the project last August after being elected on promises of strengthening security and reviving a dilapidated economy.

Initial estimates put construction of the new route at up to three years, but el-Sissi set an ambitious target of just one year.

The project is being touted as a landmark achievement, rivaling the digging of the original 192 km canal which opened in 1869 after almost a decade of work.

The new section, built at a cost of $9 billion and funded entirely by Egyptian investors, runs part of the way alongside the existing canal connecting the Red Sea and the Mediterranean.

"It's an achievement for the people who managed to fund it as a national project and accomplished it through perseverance and hard work," el-Sissi's office has said.

It involved 37 km of dry digging, creating what is effectively a "second lane", and widening and deepening another 35 km of the existing canal.

It will cut the waiting period for vessels from 18 hours to 11. By 2023, the number of ships using the canal could increase to 97 per day from 49 now.

Officials hope the new waterway will more than double Suez earnings from $5.3 billion expected at the end of 2015 to $13.2 billion in 2023. The waterway is part of a comprehensive project to develop the area adjacent to the canal into an industrial hub.

"There is a stream of investors who want to invest, because the level of trust in Egypt and its political leadership is very high," Suez Canal Authority Chairman Mahob Mameesh said last week. He expected about one million jobs to be created over the next 15 years.

Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the UK, called it "a magnificent project" but added that it "does not resolve the structural challenge facing the economy".

'New' Suez Canal brings moment of national pride

(China Daily 08/07/2015 page11)

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