Guest Post: Lens of Land

This guest post originally appeared on the Egypt-focused blog Cairo From Below.  It is a thorough analysis of the changes promised in urban policy as part of Mohammed Morsi’s presidential campaign and what the regime has accomplished so far. Not much, it appears.

By Dana Kardoush and Meredith Hutchison

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="464"]Screen shot 2012-12-07 at 3.35.48 PM Courtesy of Morsi Official Facebook Page[/caption]

This is a long overdue follow up to The Lens of Land written on July 7, 2012 and takes a deeper look at the current regime’s influence on urban policy, as well as their platform versus their actions up to the present. We will conclude with a look at the efforts of other actors on these issues.

One of the most significant changes that have occurred across the urban landscape is a boom in informal housing. Throughout the revolution and even today, homes and apartment complexes are being erected at a rapid pace, with no pragmatic legislation and enforcement in place to restrain informal building.

Promises of the Morsi Regime

According to the Freedom and Justice Election Program, Urban Development is the third element within the party’s goal for integrated development.  In addition to urban development, the Freedom and Justice Election program is focusing on human, economic, and productivity development.

In our previous post on this topic, we listed the overarching party platforms. In its more specific urban development platform, Morsi and the Freedom and Justice Party aim to:

  • Redistribute population and development, depending on natural resources*
  • Develop design and construct models that are low-cost and green, while relying on local building materials and new technologies
  • Review policies to allow for subsidies of certain of housing products (to support citizens to finance their homes)
  • Restructure real estate tax policies to support a shift of development out of the Nile Delta and to new regional growth areas
  • Re-plan city slums**
  • Review real estate, construction land, and agricultural land to make sure they are being used for the purpose for which they were allocated.

*According to the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP)’s founding statement, the redistribution of the population would be to low density areas; their example is the Sinai Peninsula (http://www.fjponline.com/view.php?pid=1).

**According to an interview on Masress.com, it appears that Morsi’s greatest focus is providing basic services to slum areas in the immediate future (http://www.masress.com/en/video/334026)

Actions of the Morsi Regime

So, what has the Morsi regime accomplished? At this moment, not much.

With regard to the distribution of resources, both the government and present international institutions have not gone through transformative changes. For example, water is still a resource that is being used for private development opportunities. Corporations are still able to purchase water rights, while many Egyptians live with insufficient access to water.

When it comes to subsidies for low-income individuals, it is unlikely that Morsi and his party will work toward lowering costs of housing supplies or construction. The boom in construction may indicate that materials and services are at a reasonable price and not need a subsidy in the first place. Moreover, it has been reported that Morsi is on track to lift subsidies on basic goods to meet the conditions of the IMF.

Finally, there is no evidence that Morsi has made land use more equitable. In fact, in some areas the military has violently asserted their right to privately-held agricultural land, displacing families and communities.

Future Plans

Despite the government’s lack of action on improving urban infrastructure in Egypt thus far, the Morsi regime has announced more definitive plans for the development of land and housing. Some of the most significant schemes are listed below:

– Housing Minister, Tareq Wafiq announced a decrease in housing prices encouraging Egyptians living abroad to buy land in certain developments in Egypt. The previous government under Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri, instituted a similar strategy in 2010, but failed to attract sufficient interest from expats.

– In March, cabinet members met to discuss the Suez Canal Axis Development Project, which Housing Minister Wafiq called one of the most important projects being considered by the government.

The project will involve the establishment of several ports and mega cities, a technology institute, two power stations, tourism centers, service zones, and the reclamation of 77,000 acres in eastern Suez Canal.

– Most recently, the housing and Urban Communities Ministry asserted their plan to build 250,000 housing units over the course of five years. This LE 25 billion plan would establish cooperative housing units for those in low income brackets, and ideally provide services and job opportunities as well.

Other Actors

There are several groups that are active in either developing their own initiatives or pressuring the government to implement land and housing programs. One organization that is pushing the Morsi regime to deliver on its promises and put an end to corruption is the Shadow Ministry of Housing. Corruption is a key obstacle, and as it is something that is deeply rooted within institutions and people’s lives, a more gradual change is to be expected. This video from Shadow Ministry of Housing delves into the complexities of the issue at hand.

Another actor that has recently spoken out on these issues is the Salafi Party. The Salafi Party has quite suddenly called for farmers’ rights and subsidizing resources for agricultural activities for poor farmers.

One thing is clear; amongst the difficulties Egyptians are facing as they work toward building a sustainable new government lies opportunity for change, opportunity for challenging the status quo, and achieving a more equitable vision for the cities. One of the most concrete ways Morsi can assert his commitment to transforming Egypt is by fulfilling his party’s stated goals when it comes to land management and urban decision-making. Until the current government makes a move beyond project planning, Egyptians remain unconvinced. 




Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *