Problems on hold
Last week Watani celebrated with pride the opening of the new Suez Canal, extensively covering the festivities that accompanied the event. A commemorative issue told the story of the near-miraculous feat Egyptians achieved in the span of one year, the gift they offered the world of global trade.
Watani was part of the Egyptian joy; it expressed the happiness of the Egyptian leadership, government, people, army and media at the spectacular achievement, their confidence in the future and their resolve to charge ahead with building a modern civic State. The jubilation at the opening of the new Canal was well earned; the task was achieved in record time through determination, faith and forbearance.
Many in the world rejoiced with Egypt. Positive, encouraging remarks poured in; numerous dignitaries took part in the celebration of the new project and expressed their profound appreciation of the work and its promise for the future. Amid the beautiful harmony of hope, however, discordant voices arose expressing scepticism at Egypt’s heft and her gift to the world. The discord came as no surprise; many of the discordant voices—and these were not a few—were adept at Egypt bashing. But for the discord to come from a heavyweight media player with a name that is the epitome of reliability and credibility warrants a stop, and has prompted me to shed light on it. Egyptians have the right to know, as do other people in the world, who twists the truth and fakes the stories.
I am not referring to any substandard reporting by media outlets of Egypt’s adversaries in Qatar or Turkey, or of poles of terrorism that work to place obstacles in Egypt’s path towards modernity and progress. I refer, with extreme shock and pain, to none less than the venerable BBC. The BBC’s reporting on the new Suez Canal cannot fool Egyptians who are well aware of the facts, but can very well mislead many who do not live in Egypt or are not sufficiently informed. The lies propagated by the BBC contradict the facts on the ground, and go against the relevant post on the website of the UK Chamber of Shipping itself, which I here reproduce for the benefit of the reader:
The new Suez canal expansion, which was officially opened on Thursday [6 August 2015], will be a gamechanger for the future of global trade. The extension to the canal has seen 72 kilometres of new canal created, parallel to the current channel. The project included 35 kilometres of dry digging and 37 kilometres of deepening, As a result, the number of daily transits will rise from 49 to at least 85 over the next ten years. With 90 per cent of the world’s trade moving by sea, and the UK being heavily reliant on trade with the Far East, restrictions on transits through the existing canal can unnecessarily extend the journey of imports and exports.At present the canal is too narrow for two way traffic. Container ships need to wait for an allocated time slot before they can begin to transit in convoy with other ships. The new capacity will mean ships can move through the canal when they need to without delay – making trade more efficient and allowing for further economic growth. UK Chamber CEO Guy Platten said: “The existing canal has done wonders for world trade. But this extension is akin to turning a B-road into a fully-fledged motorway. More ships transiting through the canal will provide a significant boost to the UK’s trade with the Far East”. Mr Platten also said the extension will ‘futureproof’ world trade: “The volume of trade moved by sea will double in the next twenty years, and dramatically increase the number of ships being able to move through the canal will facilitate new growth.”
So what does the BBC say? I here quote it:
Egypt has opened a major expansion of the Suez Canal, which deepens the main waterway and provides ships with a 35km channel parallel to it. The expansion aims to increase the traffic handled by the canal. Egypt’s government hopes the revenues will revive the economy – but analysts have questioned the projections. They point out that the volume of world trade has not been growing at the pace needed to deliver the sums Egypt hopes to collect. Egyptians commenting to the international press and on Twitter appear divided over the project, with many asking if the USD8.2 billion spent on the expansion could have been better deployed on improving infrastructure and public services. Pro-government media have hailed the expansion of the canal as a national triumph, and a turning point after years of instability. However, many analysts doubt if the new venture will deliver the anticipated benefits. Ahmed Kamaly, an economist with the American University in Cairo, told Reuters news agency that the Egyptian projections were ‘wishful thinking’. “There was no viability study done, or known of,” he was quoted as saying. He added that the immediate benefits from the expansion were more likely to be political than economic, uniting people “around a national project”. Takings from Suez could also be hit by an expansion of the Panama Canal, due to be completed next year, which will compete for traffic along the Asia-North America route. Security was tightened for the inauguration ceremony amid fears of attack by militants allied to Islamic State. The militants, based in the Sinai peninsula, have killed hundreds of people since the military overthrew the Islamist government of president Mohammed Morsi in 2013.
I again remind this was not a report by al-Jazeera or some Qatari or Turkish media famous for their hostility towards Egypt. Sadly, it is the BBC that is spitting venom our way, relying on its time-honoured reputation of credibility and objectivity.
16 August 2015