Egypt building boom sparks hope, and anger too

Egypt is in the middle of an unprecedented building boom.

New roads and bridges are being driven through parts of Cairo.

Entire new cities are planned, and one million low-cost homes.

It's all meant to galvanise the country's economy after decades of rapid population growth and unplanned building.

After overthrowing the country's first democratically elected leader in 2013, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has a lot invested in the project's success.

But local people aren't sure what to make of it.

People are worried says this man. Plans to widen existing roads will mean many homes have to be demolished, he says.

Cairo residents who have been forced to move say they were given good new homes on the outskirts. But some lost access to work as a result of the relocation.

Economists also have some doubts.

Though most welcome the spending on infrastructure, some worry it leaves deeper economic problems untouched.

Yezid Sayigh is senior fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Centre:

"The problem is, is it necessary on this scale? Was it necessary to invest so much in road transport to the exclusion of other aspects of transport like railways? And what's very important is that behind all the investment in real estate or in infrastructure, there's very little investment in the rest of the productive economy.”

Egypt's government says as much as $70 billion will be spent on transport projects over the decade to 2024.

The government hopes better connections will help develop many regions, by linking them to transport and basic services.

And few dispute that there are problems to be tackled.

A World Bank study in 2014 estimated that congestion in Cairo costs Egypt 3.6% of its GDP.

But it also warned that simply building roads won't solve the problem.

As projects press ahead, that warning will soon be put to the test.

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