CAIRO: The meeting held on Saturday between Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and Hassan Abdullah Smeek, the managing director of UAE Arabtec Construction, to sign an agreement for constructing one million housing units for low-income citizens raised controversy.
Rumors spread on social media websites that the project was one of many delusive projects that would not be implemented. A number of pages and individuals claimed that it was an attempt by Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi to earn the support of youths for his potential presidential candidacy.
The project to construct one million housing units for low-income citizens within five years was announced Sunday by military spokesperson Ahmed Ali.
Ali said that the project would be considered the largest housing project in the region.
During a March 9 conference held by the head of the engineering authority of the armed forces Taher Abdullah and a UAE delegation, Abdullah said that the project was still “being discussed and studied.”
In response to Abdullah’s statements, Rassd, a Muslim Brotherhood affiliated social media news page, wrote a piece titled “Army retreats from housing project.”
Mohsen Adel, an economic expert, told The Cairo Post Monday that the housing project was not delusive; rather “it is an agreement signed by a major company, one of the biggest construction companies in the Middle East, and it is an official contract.”
Adel said the project would be financed by UAE, adding that the reason behind the timing of the agreement had “nothing to do with Sisi’s decision to run for president,” however; the project will help in promoting the Egyptian economy, as “the real estate sector is always the engine that pushes the rest of the economic sectors.”
“The support of Arab countries to Egypt during the current period is based mainly on joint projects and not direct financial grants,” Adel said, adding that the housing project would help raise incomes, job opportunities, the standard of living, and reduce migration out of the country.”
“Don’t compare this project to Madinaty,” Adel said, referring to the upscale city being constructed in New Cairo.
“Madinaty is being constructed by a private company; this project targets low-income individuals and I predict that it will not be concentrated in Cairo; but in new areas,” he added.
Tawheed al-Banhawy, secretary general of the Nasserist Party, told Youm7 Monday that projects backed by the Military Engineering Authority should not be perceived as campaigning for Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi if he decides to run for president.
“The army is a historically patriotic authority. It was able to solve problems that former governments were not able to solve by providing housing units for youth,” Banhawy added.
Mahmoud al-Alayly, secretary general of the Free Egyptians Party, told Youm7 Monday that the project was unrelated to Sisi’s potential presidency bid, adding that such “accomplishments should not considered electoral bribes.”
This is not the first such project between Egypt and the UAE.
Last October, former Minister of Housing Ibrahim Mahlab said in a press statement that the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development had financed the Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Manshiyat Nasser. He had also announced that 8,000 housing units would be financed by the United Arab Emirates.
Minister of Local Development Adel Labib had said in a press statement last October that the UAE was going to develop 1,000 villages at a cost of 2.5 billion EGP ($350 million).
This is also not the first such project to be announced by Egypt’s Military Engineering Authority.
Last October, Youm7 reported that the UAE would fund the construction of 100 Egyptian schools, to be built by the Military Engineering Authority.
Sisi agreed to expand Al-Galaa Bridge, Cairo’s governor had said in a press statement on Feb. 1, adding that the project came as part of a “framework implemented by the armed forces to develop Ismailia routes and construct Cairo bridges.”
During the past year, the military constructed 295 railway crossing points, Hussein Zakaria Fadaly, the head of the Railway Authority, told Youm7 on Dec. 5.
Last December, the Military Engineering Authority drafted a timetable to construct a new city for the Dabaa residents who were harmed by the construction of a nuclear power plant in, Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Garary, responsible for the reconciliation process between residents and the government, had told Youm7 on Dec. 3.
Additional reporting by Ali Hassan.