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The government allocated LE1.95 billion for the development of Sinai in the current year's budget, said on Monday Major General Shawqy Rashwan, head of the Sinai Development Authority.
Out of the total amount, LE250 million is allocated by the Defense Ministry to fund the immediate needs of citizens in Sinai, particularly water projects and schools. These projects will be undertaken by the Armed Forces engineering authority.
In a press conference Monday after his meeting with Prime Minister Hesham Qandil, Rashwan said US$50 million of the remaining amount will be provided by the US.
The rest of the money comes from the Irrigation, Housing, Transport, Agriculture, Interior and Health ministries.
He said the government is considering the establishment of three free zones in Sinai, including in Rafah, Nuweiba and Arish.
In addition, legal procedures are currently being undertaken that would allow Egyptians to buy plots of land in Sinai. Rashwan said that Egyptians with Egyptian parents would be allowed to buy land; others can get the land under a usufruct agreement only, and through the Societe Anonyme Egyptienne (an Egyptian joint stock company), in which the ratio of Egyptian stocks is at least 55 percent.
Irrigation Minister Mohamed Bahaa El Din, who was also at the press conference, said that there is water for the cultivation of 80,000 acres in Sinai.
South Sinai Governor Khaled Fouda, who was also present, said that the state of security has improved in Sinai, as reflected by the 68 percent increase in hotel occupancy rates in Sharm El Sheikh.
According to the governor, tourist reservations have risen in October. He also noted the demand for an air ambulance, pointing out that some roads in Sinai are as long as of 800 km.
Analysts have proposed development as a solution for the security problems plaguing Sinai. The peninsula has been the scene of a series of attacks against Egyptian security targets, Israeli targets and tourists.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm