The Ministry of Antiquities has suffered a 90% drop in its funds and is operating with a large budget deficit, Minister Mamdouh Damati said Saturday, posing a risk to its ability to function effectively.
The severe reduction in the ministry’s annual income from EGP 1.3bn to EGP 125m is negatively affecting the repair and construction of museums and repair work on archaeological monuments. The ministry relies entirely on self-financing through various projects, state news reported Damati as saying.
During a press conference Saturday to inaugurate the EGP 20m Kafr El-Sheikh antiquities museum, Minister Damati spoke alongside local governor Osama Abdel Wahed, adding that since 2011 an extra 7,000 employees were hired, bringing the ministry’s staff to 39,000 individuals, whose salaries total EGP 72m.
Damati said that the newly inaugurated Kafr El-Sheikh museum, which was initially approved in 1992, remains incomplete, requiring a further EGP 20m to bring the institution to finish.
Revenues from ticket sales to museums and monuments have dropped significantly, said Damati, and tenants renting 289 ministry bazaars and gift shops have not paid rent since 2011.
The ministry now primarily relies on cooperation with foreign nations, such as selling replica antiquities and exhibitions outside Egypt. Last month Paris played host to an exhibition of sunken Egyptian antiquities, a show is also planned next week in Tokyo called ‘the builders of the Pyramids’.
Minister Damati said that his department’s most pressing priorities are the stalled projects such as the long delayed Grand Egyptian Museum, also initially planned in 1992. The date scheduled for the $700m, 117 acre construction to open has been put back numerous times and now stands at 2018, as the ministry has failed to secure the total funding.
In related news, work began Saturday on the restoration of the death mask of King Tutankhamen, after the beard was broken and reattached unprofessionally with basic glue.
The sloppy reattachment provoked outrage and ridicule worldwide, however in January, the antiquities ministry announced with restoration expert Christian Eckmann that the epoxy glue could be removed and the famous antique could be restored.
A joint German-Egyptian restoration team will move the mask to another location within the museum to undertake the restoration work on the 3,300 year old burial mask.