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French Version

Suez Canal income soars to record high in 2004

Egypt's booming economic sector received more good news Monday as a Suez Canal authority official said income from canal transit fees rose 16 percent in 2004 to reach a record $3.2 billion. Suez Canal income for 2004 stood at $3.275 billion, up from 2.819 billion the previous year, the official said, adding that a total of 17,224 ships carrying 646 million tons of goods had crossed the Suez.

Tolls paid by U.S.-led coalition military ships involved in the Iraq war have boosted income over the past two years but the official said growing global trade and the use of bigger containers accounted for the 2004 increase.
The 160-kilometer canal connects the Mediterranean to the Red Sea and separates mainland Egypt from the Sinai Peninsula.

He singled out booming trade with Asian economic giants India and China as one of the main factors and pointed out that trade with Southeast Asia accounted for 40 percent of the Suez traffic.

Experts have predicted that increased tolls needed to finance the expansion of the Panama Canal could affect global trading routes and favor the Suez Canal.

Lebanon's recent border problems with Syria could also boost traffic through the Suez Canal. After Lebanese commercial trucks started facing long delays at the Syrian border three weeks ago, the Lebanese government suspended all tariffs for sea shipments to ease hardships on exporters.

Egypt is in the midst of a remarkable economic renaissance. The red-hot Cairo and Alexandria Stock Exchange (CASE) has risen by 107 percent this year, buoyed by an aggressive privatization program, typified by this year's tremendously successful sell-off of petrochemical company Sidi Krier.

The government says GDP is on track for 5-percent growth this year and 6 percent in 2006, capping a remarkable turnaround from negative growth rates in 2001 and 2002.

Egypt is the third biggest economy by GDP behind Saudi Arabia and Israel in the MENA region. But like so much of the Middle East, its principle assets, oil and gas and tourism are susceptible to global economic swings.

Beirut,07 25 2005
Daniel Epps
The Daily Star
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