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Qatar unveils big investment plans in Egypt

Qatar has announced massive investments in Egypt, including a stake in a new $9 billion joint venture port on the Mediterranean Sea near northern entrance to the Suez Canal.

Qatar, the world’s largest gas exporter, had a rocky relationship with the ousted Mubarak government and has been keen to support Egypt’s transitional administration since the uprising.

The Gulf state said it was prepared to invest up to $10 billion in several projects to support Egypt’s economy, which has stumbled in the wake of a popular uprising.

‘Qatar is willing to spend anything between $5 billion and $10 billion in Egypt in all types of different investments,’ Qatari Minister of State for International Cooperation Khaled Al-Attiyah said.

‘It might be more, it might be less, but this is the figure if everything goes okay,’ he told Reuters after meeting Egypt’s International Cooperation Minister Faiza Abu el-Naga.

The uprising caused Egypt’s tourism and investment revenue to dry up, and Cairo estimates it will have a balance of payments gap of $10-12 billion in the fiscal year that begins on July 1, diplomats say.

Egypt had been asking donors and the International Monetary Fund to help support its economy.

Last week, Saudi Arabia, the US and the World Bank also pledged assistance, and an IMF team is in Cairo to discuss a proposed agreement that could be worth $3-4 billion and provide a framework for other donors to offer additional support.

‘All options are open. We are looking to be in bonds. We are looking into the development of real estate. We are reaching out to Egypt, to help our friends in Egypt, to have a good, mutual partnership,’ Attiyah said.

Among proposed projects are stakes in joint ventures to build two new ports on the Mediterranean Sea, one at Port Said and another near Alexandria, said the minister.

‘This Port Said project will raise about a million job opportunities. We’re talking about $9 billion worth of investment,’ Attiyah said, adding that details and the location of the port had yet to be worked out.

Qatar was also looking at ways to develop the area around the port and in the city of Port Said itself, he said. The port near Alexandria would be built at Malahat in the city’s western outskirts, he said.

‘If we manage (to form) a JV there with a partner from Egypt, then we will immediately find about 200,000 job opportunities,’ Attiyah said.

Qatar had formed an executive committee with the Egyptian government for the new projects, and money could start flowing as soon as it finalised the documentation, which ‘hopefully will be very soon,’ he added.

‘There are so many other projects. We are still studying and we are waiting to receive some more project opportunities.’

He said Qatar had been working during its talks with Egyptian officials to resolve obstacles facing previous Qatari investments in Egypt, including those of Qatari Diar, the property arm of the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

‘They are trying to bypass all the obstacles that we face,’ he said.


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