Egypt is endowed with a wealth of of resources: geographical, political, and social. A unit within the urban planning department made up of economists, strategists, sociologists, anthropologists, and marketers needs to be established in order to take a better look at Egypt. The role of this unit would be to understand the nature of the different areas of Egypt, their resources and potential, and to redraw the map of Egypt. Each zone should be specialized in one product or service, for example Dumiat for furniture, Suez for logistics, Siwa for alternative therapy, and the Red Sea for tourism. Zones with no natural competitive advantage can become hubs for services such as technology like Silicon Valley, political such as Brazilia, or medical such as Houston. By doing so, clear objectives and incentives can be planned for each zone. Allowing us to move away from the dense areas we’ve become so accustomed to.
Desert Development Corridor
The idea of developing those new zones seems to fit perfectly with a brilliant plan proposed by the Boston University geologist Farouk El-Baz. El-Baz has been researching Egypt’s deserts for decades, leading him to his 1985 plan of Egypt’s “Development Corridor”, which has finally been adopted and approved by Egypt’s 2011 interim government. The corridor offers construction along about 1,200 kilometers running parallel to the Nile River Valley and Delta. The plan includes an eight-lane superhighway, a railway, and all the supplementary utilities. The development corridor launches new frontiers for urban development, commerce, agriculture and tourism. “This project includes opening up a vast strip of Egypt just west of the narrow living area along the Nile that can be utilized in establishing housing communities, expanding agriculture, initiating industrial compounds, and enhancing the potential of tourism,” says El-Baz.
Role of Governors
By redrawing the map, each governorate will have a clear identity, competitive advantage, and objective. The governor at this point will be delegated with the authority to implement this plan, from the promotion of the govern-ant to businesses and individuals, becoming a one stop shop for starting businesses, and obviously to the management of the operations of the entire governate. It would be highly encouraged to choose a governor from the field or sector of which the governate will be specialized in. This will ensure that the person responsible for implementing the plan has the necessary experience and exposure to best practices needed to develop his governate. Such plans will obviously include utilities, service, and housing of which Public–private partnership (PPP) schemes could be implemented to accelerate the development of such services without burdening the public budget further.
I believe that we were driven wrongfully by the American ideology of home ownership which has been for long the stereotypical American Dream. Such a concept does not benefit the individual nor the state. First, it requires high saving ratios which is rare in Egypt, alternatively it needs an affordable mortgage system which is again a mere illusion in Egypt. Another more important obstacle is that its not feasible for the tenant from a value point of view nor the homeowner from an investment point of view. Schemes like ‘ibny bietak’ have further worsened the situation by introducing legal slums. I believe that switching from the home-ownership model to a rental model will allow the country to subsidize (cash based) housing allowing individuals to find and afford better standards of living, while making low-income housing a more attractive investment for developers, which can be further supported through a PPP scheme.