Darwish and the economics of the Suez Canal

7/7/2017, Al Bawaba

Dr. Ahmed Darwish, Chairman of the Suez Canal Economic Zone Authority, has embarked on a major media effort. holding a press conference last Tuesday to speak about the expanding economic prospects of the area around the Suez Canal. It is essential for the Egyptian general public to know that major countries and companies around the world are now looking into investing in infrastructure development in this area.

German, British, French, Japanese, Singaporean and Kuwaiti companies are all looking for business opportunities in this zone, which covers 461 square kilometers along the banks of the Suez Canal. Until the end of June, Dr. Darwish held 516 interviews with representatives of 22 foreign and Arab companies.

It is worth noting that President El-Sisi was the one who inaugurated the Suez Canal expansion project in 2015, an event that was attended by several world leaders. In the course of the expansion, a 72-kilometer-long waterway was dug, allowing ships to cross in both directions at the same time.

Dr. Darwish explained that the Egyptian leadership is particularly interested in developing the infrastructure of Egypt’s seaports. Plans are underway to build docks with a length of 5,000 meters at the Port Said port, bringing it to the level of the largest sea ports worldwide, including those of Singapore. It is also of importance to let the international public opinion know that the Suez Canal zone is totally secure and safe. This is evidenced by the fact that there has been no terrorist activity in the area during the past six years.

Dr. Darwish told journalists that a contract will be signed for the building of the first economic zone, situated to the east of Port Said, in cooperation with Kuwaiti and German companies. Talks are also underway with the Chinese to build another economic zone in Ain El Sokhna, covering an area of 6 square kilometers and a nearby petrochemical complex covering 5 square kilometers.

Commenting on Britain’s exit from the EU, or Brexit, Dr. Darwish said that this act is likely to benefit Egypt, as Britain will have less investment opportunities open in Europe and will have to look elsewhere outside Europe, including Egypt. British companies, he added, are primary investors in Egypt. It was interesting to hear this assessment from Dr. Darwish, as the point had not been made by anyone earlier.

Dr. Darwish also revealed that negotiations are underway within the Suez Canal Economic Zone to select key international figures as members of the Zone’s Advisory Council. It is worth noting that the Zone is an independent entity that receives no funding from the government, but instead examines each project on its own merit to ensure feasibility.

Basing his expectations on hard facts, Dr. Darwish said that the present year is likely to be “a difficult one”, but predicted a breakthrough between 2018 and 2020. Dr. Darwish noted that investors in the region are unlikely to face difficulties obtaining hard currency, as most of them are exporters. Discussing the future of North Sinai, Dr. Darwish expects the Al-Arish seaport to double its capacity in the near future.

Asked about the challenges that may hinder development of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, Dr. Darwish admitted there are three problems. One is related to the credit rating of Egypt, the other related to the country’s reputation regarding the ease of doing business, and the third related to customs barriers.

The colossal Suez Canal project must be seen a gift to the area and its inhabitants, who are known for their hard work as well as their gallant history in ending the British occupation. Many of the inhabitants of the Suez Canal cities have suffered dearly for their patriotism and the love they have for their country.

President El-Sisi’s decision to create an Economic Zone for the Suez Canal, timed to follow on the doubling of the waterway, was forward looking. With so many elements of success in place, it was time to move ahead and create suitable projects for our people along the Canal, thus boosting opportunities for agricultural and industrial development and creating jobs for the youth.

Choosing Dr. Darwish as chairman of the Economic Zone was a brilliant move. I have been following his career since he was minister of administrative development in Nazif’s government. His dedication, modesty, and creativity are known to all. So his choice for this particular job is a sign that al-Sisi is capable of bringing into key positions people who have a creative spirit and who bring capability and speedy accomplishment to their tasks.

Dr. Darwish is also comfortable with the media, which enables him to provide the public with a clear picture of the situation. He doesn’t, however, like to appear excessively in the media. When he came to Paris to meet businessmen, everyone was surprised, including our ambassador to France, to see him meet more than 40 businessmen in less than 48 hours, giving each a fully-fledged briefing. Upon his return to Egypt, Dr. Darwish continued his non-stop efforts, holding endless meetings and staying ahead of the game.

My appreciation is great for this man and his tireless efforts for his country and his job.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.