President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt has announced a $5.6bn construction project in the northern Sinai Peninsula as part of a strategy to combat an Islamist insurgency in the area.
He was speaking at the opening ceremony for a development project at the southern Suez Canal city of Ismailia. He said: "We have entrusted the ministry of housing and the engineering authority with a national project of comprehensive urban planning," implying that the projects would involve improvements to living conditions in the North Sinai Governorate.
The region stretches from the Suez Canal to the Gaza Strip and has a population of about 500,000, predominantly made up of Bedouin tribes.
The insurgency in the area began after the 2011 overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, and has continued to the present day despite a number of military operations. The worst single incident occurred in November last year when more than 300 worshippers were killed and 100 injured in an attack on a Sufi mosque west of Al-Arish, the regional capital.
Sisi has used infrastructure spending to try and reduce political tension since he took power in 2013. (See articles below.)
Last year the economy was hit by a rapid rise in inflation after the floating of the Egyptian pound, a condition of a $12bn, three-year IMF-funded programme, which also imposed tax rises and subsidy cuts.
The IMF is predicting that Egypt’s economy will grow 4.5% in 2018, compared with 4.1% last year.
Image: Destroyed olive trees on the outskirts of al-Mehdiya in North Sinai (Sophie Anmuth/IRIN)