President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi issued a decree on Monday that amends a number of provisions of law 14/2012 regarding the full development of the Sinai Peninsula, as published in the government’s official Gazette.
Ten articles of the law were replaced with new ones, with the purpose of avoiding the involvement of state institutions in any legal disputes with investors who made legal contracts prior to the adoption of the law in early 2012.
The law stipulates that ownership of land and real estate in the region must be held by persons carrying only Egyptian citizenship, with Egyptian parents. Juridical persons whose capital is owned entirely by Egyptian citizens are also entitled to own land and real estate in the region.
The law further authorises dual Egyptian nationals as well as foreigners to own buildings in the region without owning the land on which they are built, or to grant the right of usufruct to non-Egyptians for residential purposes for a period that does not exceed 50 years.
Authorisation requires the approvals of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior and the general intelligence in this regard.
The law prohibits ownership or rent or usury in “strategic regions of military importance”, areas adjacent to the borders as per presidential decree 444/2014, islands in the red sea, and natural reserves, and archaeological sites.
In late June, Al-Sisi has also decreed a law amending several provisions of the law organising investment in the Suez Canal area. The law organises and governs investment in the Suez Canal area, and the economic body that will take over managing the Suez Canal Development Project, in coordination with all the concerned governmental bodies.
The amendments stipulated that the general authority designated to manage the zone has the right to participate in launching one or more major companies to develop the area, or to license others to launch this company. It is further entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating with the Ministry of Defence regarding defence requirements and issuing the work permits for foreign labour after acquiring the necessary approvals.
The Sinai Peninsula is considered a vital and strategic region for Egypt and a priority in its national security agenda. The situation in the region has particularly raised alarm over the past two years due to the surge in militant activity and the increasing number of operations that target security personnel and facilities in East Al-Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid.
The Egyptian army began to establish a ‘secure zone’ along the Rafah border, after an armed raid left at least 30 security personnel dead on 24 October.
The armed forces announced it would establish a buffer zone to end all smuggling activity in underground tunnels connecting Rafah to the Gaza Strip.
The first and second phases of the buffer zone have been completed, with each phase covering 500 metres. The North Sinai governor announced last week that the survey for the buffer zone’s third phase has been completed in preparation for its evacuation. It is believed that the third phase will cover an additional 500 metres.
Sustainable development in the Sinai region has been a pressing concern ever since its liberation from Israeli occupation in 1982. Caught in turmoil and militant activity, Sinai has remained mostly underdeveloped and its community marginalised.