Egypt’s Sisi extends army power by taking charge of Gulf aid

March 27, 2014 | By | Reply More

Mar 27, – One of several Gulf states to shower Egypt with cash and petroleum products after the army ousted elected Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Mursi, the UAE also looked ahead, seeking to bolster a system that could keep Islamists it sees as an existential threat from running the most populous Arab state.

hromedia Egypt’s Sisi extends army power by taking charge of Gulf aid arab uprising2Egypt’s army is taking charge of billions of dollars of development aid from the United Arab Emirates, an army official said, raising further doubts over the narrow separation of powers with the military backed administration in place since July.

Alongside money to build clinics, schools and housing units, it offered to fund a project in Egypt’s strategic wheat sector–the construction of 25 wheat silos that could help the world’s biggest importer of the commodity lower its huge food bill.

Bread is a politically-explosive issue in Egypt — failure to deliver it at an affordable price has triggered major riots in the past and the government wants to boost its storage capacity to reduce its reliance on international markets.

When army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled Mursi after large demonstrations against what protesters said was inept government, he put in place an interim civilian cabinet meant to be at arm’s length from the military.

But Major General Taher Abdullah, who heads the Engineering Authority of the Armed Forces, said when UAE officials discussed projects shortly after Mursi’s ouster, it was with the army.

“They said, ‘we will support the Egyptian people but through the army — if the people want a hospital, the armed forces will build it,'” the 58-year-old career officer and engineer told Reuters in an interview.

The army’s role in building construction became public earlier this month when UAE government-linked Dubai firm Arabtec’s announced it had inked a $40 billion deal with the military to build one million homes in Egypt.

In the silos project, it has been acting behind the scenes.

The army was not mentioned when a $4.9 billion UAE aid package for development and infrastructure schemes was announced in October. It included funds for the new silos, which the government says should help prevent the loss of 1.6 million tonnes – around half a billion dollars worth – of wheat a year.

An official at Egypt’s state-run silos and storage company with knowledge of the wheat project told Reuters the interim government’s Investment Ministry launched a tender in January to choose a company to build four of the silos.

The estimated per-silo construction cost in the tender specifications was nearly three times the cost projected by the UAE, according to the silos company source.

The UAE told the Egyptian ministry to withdraw the tender, making clear that they would not release money until they saw more “suitable” prices in it, the source said.

He said the UAE held a meeting at a Cairo hotel in early March, convening representatives from the three Egyptian ministries and the state silo company along with army officials.

A trader with knowledge of the Egyptian wheat sector also said the UAE had rejected the January tender.

Sherif Oteifa, an adviser to the Investment Minister on “mega projects”, confirmed a tender was issued in January but said it had not been rejected. He said he hoped next week to have final clearance from the Emirates government to award contracts for construction of two of the silos. Officials estimate they will take about 18 months to build.

Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer hayat contributed to this report.

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Category: Arab uprising

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