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Egypt hires firms for Suez project

CAIRO — Egypt selected a consortium of Egyptian and Persian Gulf companies Tuesday to develop the government’s project to transform the Suez Canal waterway into a hub of international investment and free-trade zones, officials said.

Egyptian authorities say the massive development plan is badly needed to help boost an economy that has been ravaged by three years of political turmoil. The Suez Canal is a key source of revenue for Egypt, bringing in around $5 billion annually.

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The Canal Authority chief, Moheeb Mamish, said the Dar al-Handasah, a leading Mideast design, architecture, and engineering consultancy registered in Bahrain, was chosen from 14 candidates to develop the project. He did not give the price tag for the project.

The goal is to transform five ports at the northern and southern tips of the canal — Sukhna, Adiba, El Arish, and two facilities in Port Said — into attractive investment zones, he said.

‘‘Egypt is the belly button of the world,’’ Mamish said. ‘‘We have to make use of its geography.’’

Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab described the project as part of ‘‘rediscovering of Egypt’’ and making use of its hidden resources. He asserted that the project will create one million job opportunities and turn the region into a new Hong Kong.

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