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Egypt drawing up plans for south Sinai land after UAE mega-deal

February 27, 2024 at 8:06 pm

Sharm El-Sheikh is an Egyptian resort town between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea on 22 February 2019 [Yessica da silva esteves/Flickr]

Egypt is drawing up plans to develop Ras Gamila, a stretch of largely vacant seaside near the resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, a government official said, days after a huge Emirati investment deal was announced, Reuters reports.

“A committee was formed following a cabinet decision to research, present and prepare a strategic vision for exploiting the area,” Mansour Abdel Ghany, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Enterprise, said on an Egyptian talk show on Monday evening.

“Not only making use of Ras Gamila, but also the surrounding area, the geographic space and neighbouring areas,” he added.

Egypt may engage a consultant to help decide on how best to maximise the benefit from the land, he said, but added that the government had not yet decided who to offer it to.

Egypt was preparing to offer the land to Saudi Arabia, Saudi newspaper, Okaz, reported on Sunday before removing the report from its website.

Abdel Ghany denied any negotiation for Ras Gamila had yet taken place.

READ: UAE in talks to buy Egypt coastline for $22bn

Saudi Arabia said, in 2018, that Egypt had committed a vast area in the southern Sinai to complement a mega-city and business zone called NEOM which the Saudis are building across the Straits of Tiran.

Ras Gamila lies directly across the Straits of Tiran from two islands which Egypt agreed to turn over to Saudi Arabia in 2017.

It is near the site where a bridge across the Red Sea – an idea announced by Saudi King Salman during a visit to Cairo in 2016 – would make landfall.

Egypt, badly in need of foreign currency, facing heavy foreign debts and suffering a gaping budget deficit, has stepped up plans to sell state assets.

Last week, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund agreed to pay $24 billion for the rights to develop pristine land on Egypt’s northern coast, which Egypt called the biggest foreign direct investment in its history.

The deal, which includes an additional $11 billion in investments, is expected to provide a big short-term boost for Egypt’s faltering economy.

The official gazette said, on Tuesday, that the Egyptian government had turned over 170.8 million square metres of land owned by the army to the state-owned New Urban Communities Authority for construction of New Ras El Hekma City, part of the Emirati project on the Mediterranean.

READ: Egypt PM: ‘UAE to pump $35bn into Egypt within 2 months’