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7 July 2012 / merehutch

The Lens of Land – Egypt

Through the lens of land – new politics and policies in Egypt’s recent races

Candidates’ Share of Votes

Amidst the emotional and political bustle of elections in Egypt, we wanted to take a moment to review the key figures and parties emerging over the last several months through the lens of land rights and housing policy. While these more localized issues are not at the forefront of national discussion. Many platforms touch on housing and land in their larger vision for the country.

Land rights and housing policy remain integral to this period of transition in the country. Just days ago, dispossessed Egyptian farmers were vying for President Elect Mohammed Morsi’s attention to settle disputes with Youssef Wali, Minister of Agricuture under Mubarak who used to give huge tracts of lands to judges, generals and ministers. Among many other issues, it will be most interesting to see how Morsi handles these sensitive and deep-rooted issues.  For a complete summary of events leading up to and through the recent transition check out the Huffington Posts’ timeline.

Below we’ve highlighted the specific platform items of each party that mention issues of land, housing, basic services, environment and local governance.

Presidential Vote by Governorate
(Blue – Morsi/ Red – Shafiq/ Green – Fotouh)

They are categorized into two groups: parties that focus on the governance of land and those who support improved housing policy.

For a full summary of all political alliances and parties, visit the Carnegie Endowment’s Guide to Egypt’s Transition and Jadaliyya. A great deal of the information below was found in M. Cherif Bassiouni’s Chronicles of the Egyptian Revolution Report.

 

 

LAND OWNERSHIP AND MANAGEMENT

Al Masriyeen al Ahrrar (The Free Egyptians Party):

– Codify land ownership for the people of Sinai

– Provide land for low-income housing accommodations to provide an alternative to the propagation of unplanned slums

– Encourage scientific investigation of air pollution and create plans for proper waste management

– Criminalize infringement on agricultural land, especially infringement for the purpose of urban expansion

– Decentralize state management and ensure an equitable distribution of resources among the governorates

– Provide credit and production inputs at reasonable prices to farmers

 Hizb Al Ishtaraki Al Masri (Egyptian Socialist Party)

– Set a maximum limit on land ownership, issue deeds of ownership to farmers and stop encroachment on arable land

– Preserve the environment and conserve natural resources

– Provide agricultural inputs at subsidized prices and promoting cooperative marketing of crops

– Transform the economic structure from one based on services promoting speculation and rent to one promoting agriculture and industry

– Set a maximum limit on land ownership, issue deeds of ownership to farmers and stop encroachment on arable land

– Rent and interest rate ceilings for agricultural land and loans

– Preserve the environment and conserve natural resources

– Set a maximum limit on land ownership, issue deeds of ownership to farmers and stop encroachment on arable land

– Rent and interest rate ceilings for agricultural land and loans

– Transform the economic structure from one based on services promoting speculation and rent to one promoting agriculture and industry

– Provide agricultural inputs at subsidized prices and promoting cooperative marketing of crops

– Equal distribution of development amongst the governorates, especially rural areas

Socialist Popular Alliance party

– Demanding the reclamation of all lands sold to private investors during the regime of Mubarak.

– Withdrawal from the agreement on the liberalization of international trade due to its ‘unfair conditions’

– Advocating for a new housing law that would create a more equal relationship between landlord and tenant and developing a housing policy based on support for public housing, youth, and the poor

– Supporting the cancellation of all concessions granted to foreign countries in Egypt’s waterways, land, and air if these are used to harm any of the peoples of the world

 

HOUSING POLICY

Cairo Photographed by John Harris Al Masri al Youm

Cairo Photographed by John Harris Al Masri al Youm

Al-Gabha al-Dimuqrati (The Democratic Front Party)

– Expand housing projects beyond the Nile River Valley and protect agricultural land

Democratic Generation Party

– Provide state-subsidized housing to those in need.

Al Tahrir al Masry (Egyptian Liberation Party)

– Support the right to health care, education, employment and housing

Al Tagammu (National Progressive Unionist Party)

– Allow trade unions and NGOs to operate freely without government oversight or intervention

– Ensure that the government provides adequate public services

– Regulate water consumption and invest in the development of sustainable energy sources

Al-Wasat (The Center Party)

– Environmental protection cannot be achieved by the market, which does not consider environmental gain and loss; only state enterprises can take into consideration the environmental

– The state should invest in infrastructure and public works projects and provide incentives for private investment

– Egypt should be self-sufficient in key foods such as wheat

– Encourage communities to fight poverty through local development projects and zakat (alms) institutions

Hizb Al Amal Al Islamiya (The Islamic Labor Party)

– Revitalize plans for the development of the Sinai Peninsula and relocate millions of Egyptians to live there to strengthen the area and prevent Zionist threats

– Establishment of an independent zakat (alms) institution charged with administering charitable contributions to the poor

Al-Tayar al-Masry (Egyptian Current Party)

– Enhancing public services offered to citizens.

– Every individual has a right to equal access of education, healthcare and housing.

– Eradication of poverty through job creation and unemployment benefits.

– Provide adequate housing and universal health insurance for all Egyptians

Al Masry al Dimuqrati al Igtima’i (The Egyptian Social Democratic Party)

– Maintain a clean environment by preserving natural resources in a sustainable way for future generations

– Advocate minimum guaranteed income

– Ensure adequate healthcare and housing

– Ensure economic development through public infrastructure spending which will stimulate the economy

– Protection of the environment and natural resources

 Al Hurriyya wa al ‘Adala (Freedom and Justice Party – Democratic Alliance) *Party of new President Morsi

– Secure citizens’ basic needs and services including food, clothing, housing, health care, education, transportation, security and entertainment

– Support environmental conservation and sustainability and reducing pollution and the depletion of resources

– Secure the sources of the Nile River

– Relocate polluting factories to areas far from populated areas and provide financial incentives for clean industries

Al Hizb Al Sheo’ei Al Masry (The Egyptian Communist Party)

– Equal opportunities in health, education, housing and employment for all citizens

 

BOTH

Al-Ghad Party (Tomorrow Party)

-Pursue environmentally sustainable solutions to the water scarcity crisis.

– Support competitive bidding for government contracts

– Provide a minimum wage and the expansion of micro-credit programs

– Codify land ownership for the people of Sinai

– Encourage the development of wind, solar and biofuels energy

– Maximize water conservation by improving ties with Nile basin countries, improving processes for desalinating sea water, and invest in facilities for recycling wastewater

– Provide land for low-income housing accommodations to provide an alternative to the propagation of unplanned slums

– Encourage scientific investigation of air pollution and create plans for proper waste management

– Criminalize infringement on agricultural land, especially infringement for the purpose of urban expansion

– Provide credit and production inputs at reasonable prices to farmers

– Decentralize state management and ensure an equitable distribution of resources among the governorates

Al-Adl Party (Justice Party)

– Exploit all of Egypt’s land from the western desert to the Sinai for economic development but without harming the environment

– Rely on new and renewable energy sources

– Invest in renewable energy

– Self-sufficiency in water and energy

– Adequate housing, healthcare and education is the right of every citizen, including children, workers, the handicapped and the elderly

– Provide low cost housing to those who cannot otherwise afford it

– Encourage environmental and energy conservation in construction

– Expand settlements beyond the narrow Nile valley

– Create green spaces within cities

– Reduce construction in agricultural areas

– Reduce the spread of slums

 

THE WAY FORWARD

Cairo

Cairo 2011 – Photo credit: Muneeb Ansari

As with other areas of potential change in Egypt’s political landscape, there are both promising and worrying signs in land rights and housing policy.

For example, independent Presidential candidate, lawyer and labor activist Khaled Ali campaigned strongly on these issue and is an example of one of several people and organizations fighting for land rights and better housing policies. His campaign called for cooperatives to increase Egypt’s agricultural lands, to reclaim desert lands, and to realize self-sufficiency in agricultural production. While he received a fraction of the vote, his commitment to his platform continues.

However, all this may be the exception rather than the norm. Other Presidential candidates, like Ahmad Sahafiq,  frequently dealt in discounted land sales. Employees at the Civil Aviation Ministry and EgyptAir Holding Company have filed more than 40 lawsuits against Shafiq since the uprising, accusing him of corruption and squandering public funds. However, the fate of these cases remains unknown, especially since the public prosecutor transferred them to the military prosecution in May, and Shafiq was never summoned for interrogation.

They also accuse Shafiq of squandering funds by investing more than LE100 million in building two malls next to the Cairo and Sharm el-Sheikh airports, projects that failed to generate any revenue. Selling vast tracts of ministry land to some businessmen at cheap prices is also among the accusations.

In the coming months, the presence of concrete issues relating to land and housing policy in national political dialogue will be telling of the new administration’s true commitment to transforming the daily lives of Egyptians. While discussion remains focused on foreign policy, national democracy, and the relationship between the government and military, it is important for community organizations and activists to keep pushing for politicians to deliver on commitments to these more micro issues.

 

Dana Kardoush is the Cairo from Below Communications Coordinator. Kardoush is an alumnus of Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA).  While at SIPA, along with fellow classmates and colleagues in Cairo, she contributed to forming Cairo from Below. Kardoush’s interest lies in civil society mobilization and community-led development in the Middle East, and as a Palestinian-American, she hopes to return to live and work in Palestine in the future.

Meredith Hutchison is the Cairo from Below Programs Coordinator. Meredith holds a Masters in International Affairs from Columbia University. While at Columbia, she was part of the team that formed Cairo from Below. Meredith’s interests center on local governance and accountability, and she hopes to continue to support the growth of community media hubs worldwide.

 

 

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