File photo: Egypt s Suez Canal
El-Gebaly stressed that "the state is committed to protecting, developing and preserving Suez Canal as a strategic international waterway."
The Speaker's remarks came in response to rumours on social media that the bill would pave the way to sell Suez Canal and its assets.
It also came after many opposition MPs who voted against the bill raised concerns that the bill's "real objective" was to sell the canal and its assets.
On Monday, Egypt's House of Representatives gave initial approval to a legislative amendment to a 1975 law that would establish an investment fund to reinforce Suez Canal's financial position, help it absorb external shocks and enhance its contribution to the national economy.
"According to Article 43 of the constitution, the Suez Canal is a public asset that the state should develop, and not to sell, and that parliament will not do anything that does not go in line with the constitution," El-Gebaly added.
El-Gebaly said he was shocked by what "those who belong to the intellectual elite claimed on the social media and in interviews with TV channels that the bill passed in principle yesterday would lead to selling Suez Canal."
"In response to what I have heard and saw yesterday, let me indicate that the bill passed yesterday only aims to set up a fund to develop Suez Canal's financial resources in terms of establishing companies that will put Suez Canal's assets to an economic use," said El-Gebaly.
He indicated that the fund will never impact Suez Canal as an international waterway in any way.
"It will do all what investment funds do – that is selling, buying and leasing fixed and mobile assets in order to generate more income for Suez Canal Authority (SCA),” he said.
"I assure everyone that Egypt's parliament does its job revising government-drafted bills very well and that it will never be involved in passing any laws that might contravene the constitution," said the speaker.
A 19-page report prepared by the House's Economic Affairs Committee states that the one-article bill would establish a SCA fund with a licensed capital of EGP 100 billion and a paid-up capital of EGP 10 billion.
The amended Article 15 of SCA's law states that the proposed fund's financial proceeds will come from its capital, SCA's financial profits, investment in the stock market and selling and leasing SCA's assets.
"This fund is necessary to help SCA absorb external economic shocks resulting from global crises and exceptional emergency situations like the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine," said the report, indicating that "the fund's board will be headed by SCA's chairman, while members will be nominated by the prime minister, with the stipulation that they have high experience in the area of financial investments.
Head of Suez Canal Authority Osama Rabie told MPs on Monday that "despite these exceptional emergency circumstances, the Suez Canal's revenue hit $7.9 billion record peak, up from $6.3 billion in the previous year, and we expect it to reach $8 billion by the end of the current FY 2022/23 (July 2023)."
Rabie attributed the rise in revenues to an increase in vessel numbers and cargoes transiting the canal, with total vessels reaching 23,400, up from 21,700 in previous year, and total cargoes reaching a record high of 1.420 billion tons, up from 1.220 billion in 2021.
Meanwhile, Head of the House's Economic Committee Mohamed Soliman asserted that the proposed fund will increase SCA's revenues by $10 billion by the end of FY 2023/24.
A large number of MPs from leftist and liberal political parties rejected the bill, arguing that 'the real objective of the bill is to prepare for privatisation of Suez Canal and its assets.
Wafdist MP Mohamed Abdel-Alim warned that "Suez Canal is like the Pyramids of Giza and should not be up for sale in any way."