CAIRO: The Ministry of Antiquities has been encountering financial problems with its total debt, which rose to 2.8 billion EGP due to the sharp decrease in its revenues in the wake of the January 25 Revolution, said Antiquities Minister Mamdouh el-Damaty.
During his interview on Al-Mehwar TV channel Wednesday, Damaty said the antiquities sector, which employs over 38,000 people, does not rely on state funding and suffers from limited financial resources.
“Entrance fees paid by tourists visiting museums and archaeological sites along with overseas exhibitions of Egyptian rare artifacts represent the ministry’s main source of income,” Damaty said.
According to Damaty, the ministry’s revenues during the 2013/2014 fiscal year reached only 125 million EGP ($17.8 million) compared to 3 billion EGP during the 2009/2010 fiscal year.
“The current yearly income is good enough to pay the salaries of the ministry’s employees for just two months.” Damaty added.
In 2010, which was the peak of Egyptian tourism during the past two decades, 14.7 million tourists visited the country and spent 98.5 billion EGP in revenue, according to the 2011 report of the National Accounts Division of the Ministry of Tourism.
Tourism represents an important source of foreign currency entering the Egyptian economy, alongside revenues from the Suez Canal and remittances of Egyptians living abroad, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.
“The downward spiral state of Egypt’s tourism and the consequent unprecedented collapse in the ministry’s revenues since the January 25 Revolution, along with the ministry’s commitment to accomplishing several suspended archaeological projects has pushed us to think outside the box,” said Damaty adding the ministry considers engaging the private sector in its tumble projects especially the Grand Egyptian Museum.
In November 2010, proceeds from museum and archaeological tickets sales reached 15 million EGP compared to 4.5 million EGP in November 2012, he added.
According to the Sub-Accounts Unit of the Ministry of Tourism, spending for foreign tourists fell from $85 per night at the end of 2010 to less than $63.
Only 62 tourists and 355 Egyptians have visited the Egyptian museum Wednesday, Salah Hafez, who works in the tickets office at the Egyptian Museum, told The Cairo Post Thursday.
“Before the Revolution, the minimum number of tourists visiting the museum per day exceeded 10,000 visitors,” said Hafez who pointed out that the museum’s entrance fees are 80 EGP per tourist and 2 EGP per Egyptian.
As for the financial commitments of the antiquities ministry, Damaty said the ministry is currently engaged in restoration and maintenance projects of over seventy archaeological sites and museum across the country and that it is facing difficulties to resume these projects.
Overseas exhibits represent the lifeline that could help overcoming the ministry’s “critical” situation, said Damaty adding that he expects an improvement in the financial situation of the ministry within two years.
A year-long exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts will be hosted in Japan starting September 2014, Damaty said, the revenue from the exhibit will exceed 70 million EGP.
He added that the antiquities ministry is cooperating with all concerned state bodies, primarily the Tourism Ministry and the Tourism Promotion Authority to help increase the ministry’s revenues and boost Egypt’s tourism.
According to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, tourist activity comprises 11.3% of GDP.
According to the Central Bank of Egypt, tourism is ranked second in terms of most important sources of income for Egypt after remittances from Egyptians abroad, and is followed by income from the Suez Canal.