Egypt Opens New £6bn Suez Canal Waterway

Amid much anticipation, pomp and ceremony Egypt’s new addition to the Suez Canal will be unveiled on Thursday.The £6bn project, upgrading the Canal by adding a new waterway, has taken just a year to complete.”The Great Egyptian Dream” – as officials have dubbed it – involved building a 21 mile (35km) bypass along the 120 mile (193km) long canal and deepening it so as to allow ships to travel in different directions simultaneously along that stretch. This is the third time since the Canal was built in 1869 that the waterway has been significantly widened to allow for two-way traffic. The Authority heading the projects predict that the renovations will double the amount of ships per day crossing the canal, increasing the revenue to £8.4bn (it’s currently at £3.5bn) by 2023.The Suez Canal is the fastest link between Asia and Europe and accounts for around 7% of global seaborne trade.  It’s long been a principle source of state revenue for Egypt.Expectations are high and the project has become a source of national pride. It’s Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi’s solution to the country’s economic woes and the loss in revenue from declining tourism and foreign trade. Mr Sisi has promised Egyptians that this is the answer and called the Canal Egypt’s gift to the world.But some question whether the billions it took to renovate the Canal could have been better spent elsewhere. In reality, whether there is an increase in traffic will depend on global trade and demand rather than just the Canal’s capacity,Economic analyst and CEO of the Signet Institute, Angus Blair, told Sky News that the Canal will likely bring in extra revenue and help economic recovery.But he thinks more needs to be done to deal with the growing Egyptian population’s needs.”I think it would be good to have more infrastructure spending across the country as well, to get people back to work near where they live, so that people can see changes in their environment – not just far away.”But one thing I would say about the Suez Canal is that we can’t really put a price on a change in national sentiment.”Indeed the country has been engrossed by the opening of the Canal. All around the country there are billboards and countdowns reminding people of the gravity of the day – it’s been made a national holiday, public transport will be free and public gardens open to all. You’d be hard pressed to find an Egyptian unaware of the grand opening.Many Egyptians see the Suez Canal project as the start of good things to come after years of turmoil.   But there is no quick fix to Egypt’s economic problems and the fear is even if the extra revenue trickles down, it may well take time.In the meantime, Egypt’s deep political and social issues will continue to take a toll on its economy.

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