Egypt's Sisi launches Suez Canal expansion projec
Government hopes project will double Egypt's Suez Canal earnings from current $5.3 billion per year to some $13 billion annually
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al -Sisi on Thursday officially opened a new shipping route of theSuez Canal.
At a lavish ceremony attended by a host of foreign leaders, Sisi inaugurated the project, which the government hopes will double Egypt's Suez Canal earnings from the current $5.3 billion per year to some $13 billion annually.
"We, Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, give the permission for the opening of the new Suez Canal," he said to the applause of attendees at the ceremony.
Originally planned as a three-year project, Sisi ordered the route to be completed in one year.
The mega-project includes a 35-km (22-mile) parallel waterway flanking the existing 145-year-old canal. It also includes a deepening and widening of 37 km of the existing canal, which will cut transit times and allow larger vessels easier passage.
The mega-project brings to the canal’s length to 120 miles and its depth to 78 feet, allowing it to accommodate the world's largest vessels.
Sisi said that the Suez Canal project is "the first step in one thousand steps that we Egyptians must walk."
"Today, we give the world a new artery to welfare," Sisi added.
As Sisi was speaking, a ship transiting the new route blared out its horn to the applause of the attendees.
A vital source of foreign currency for Egypt, the Suez Canal is one of the world's busiest waterways. It connects the Mediterranean and Red seas, allowing ships to travel between Europe and South Asia without navigating around Africa.
Egyptian authorities raised $8.5 billion for the mega-project by selling non-tradable certificates with a maturity of five years at a 12 percent interest rate to Egyptian citizens.
Despite the massive media propaganda, some analysts and economists say, however, that the project may fail to meet the great expectations.
Activists have launched an online campaign mocking the Suez Canal expansion as nothing but a "watercourse". Proponents of the campaign claim that the project will not make any financial gains and "is doomed to failure".
"The new route is not the first. There were several routes that were opened without such fabricated fanfare," former Muslim Brotherhood lawmaker Mustafa Mohamed wrote on his Facebook page.
Sisi said that his government has fought what he described as "the most dangerous extremist, terrorist ideology".
"Egyptians stood up to this thought in order to present building, not destruction," he said. "History will also remember for Egypt that it stood up to modernize the religious discourse."
A former army chief, Sisi led the army to oust Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, in a 2013 coup following protests against his rule.
The government has also designated the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Morsi hails, as a "terrorist organization".
In the two years since Morsi's overthrow, Egyptian authorities have waged a relentless crackdown on political dissent. The crackdown, which has largely targeted Morsi’s supporters and members of his Muslim Brotherhood group, has seen hundreds killed and tens of thousands thrown behind bars.
Last Modified: 2015-08-08 07:50:36
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