Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Sewage Canal

As Egypt frets that Ethiopian hydroelectric designs may force a rethink of its asinine aspirations to flood infertile sands to grow rice and wheat to replace asphalted-over Nile river plains (and impinge upon time-honored traditions such as aimlessly watering the street), attention has shifted away from development plans for the country's other strategic waterway, the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal Corridor Project seeks to promote public-private partnerships to develop the areas adjacent to the 160 kilometer long canal. With the exception of the harbors, liquefied natural gas container facilities and some light industry in Soukna and East Port Said, the canal area is sparsely developed. Utilizing a strategic location, which is the main trading conduit between Asia and Europe and through which $1.6 trillion in global goods flow annually, for more than collecting a relatively meager $5 billion in annual tolls would seem uncontroversial. Not so in Egypt.
Wasted gifts

Setting aside the mundane reject-at-all-costs arguments to anything and everything proposed by the government, the most substantive criticism has centered on long term land leases that would be granted to private investors. The opposition has offered nothing in terms of economic alternatives to how Egypt can develop the Suez Canal area -- or anywhere else in the country, for that matter -- without private investment, for which certainty of property rights is a must. Instead, sewer-politics has dominated, with stump speeches recklessly appealing to the country's toxic mix of xenophobic paranoia and delusive socialist dreams. 

Neatly summing up the opposition's incapacity on both the Nile and Suez Canal, one of its leading lights, hot-heated Hamdin Sabahi, has a be-damned proposal to block passage along the Suez Canal to all countries with contractors working on the Ethiopia project.  This would ensure that Egypt becomes an international pariah, and a poorer and drier one at that. Meanwhile, Morsi and his brethren have decided to shift focus entirely and sow the seeds of inter-religious strife in Syria, a conflict in which Egypt has no business in, let alone capacity for, injecting itself.  

Egyptians deserve much better than this. 

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