x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Egypt's agriculture plan a lightning rod for corruption investigations

A plan to create "a second Nile valley" in Egypt's south-west has become a lightning rod for corruption investigations and complaints about government waste.

CAIRO //A plan to create "a second Nile valley" in Egypt's south-west has become, in the two months since Hosni Mubarak resigned the presidency, a lightning rod for corruption investigations and complaints about government waste.

Judicial investigations of land deals that were struck with Saudi Arabia's Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and other Gulf investors have provided fodder for media reports suggesting the government lost billions of Egyptian pounds by selling land at below-market prices.

An administrative court is scheduled to decide next Saturday whether Prince Alwaleed's 1998 contract - the largest among the investors in the South Valley Development - should be cancelled.

The South Valley Development, also known as Toshka, was funded in part with a US$100 million (Dh367.2m) grant from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development and aimed to increase the area of Egypt's arable land by 10 per cent with water pumped 300km by canal from Lake Nasser.

Mr Mubarak and his cabinet championed the project as a way to create agricultural jobs and boost the country's food production, and the government signed a string of deals with foreign investors to speed the project's development.

But last year - well before the protests that forced Mr Mubarak from power - public criticism of those deals began to grow.