Qalaa Holdings Chairman Ahmed Heikal was optimistic about the future in an appearance last night with Lamees El Hadidy on CBC’s Hona Al Assema. In a lengthy discussion, the two discussed the economy and expectations of 2017. Heikal believes many factors support growth in Egypt — the shift to a more flexible currency regime, the gradual phase-out of subsidies (which will be positive for both the budget and the trade deficit, he says), the effect of the EGP devaluation on tourist inflows, new oil and gas discoveries, and the gradual pickup in export activities, to name but a few.
Reforms painful, but necessary: No matter how “painful” they may seem for citizens, he said, the Ismail government’s reform program is long overdue and essential to sustainable growth and development. “The result of the [reform] measures we adopted recently is that in two years’ time, we will have a more diversified economy that’s in much better shape than it is now,” he said.
Should have started a decade ago: Heikal said the reforms should have started a decade ago, when the first signs of the current economic crisis were first detected. The energy crisis, for example, began in 2005 “and we didn’t do what needed to be done then” (watch, runtime 34:57). The businessman told El Hadidy that the government has taken great strides in energy, explaining that a reduced energy imports bill would alleviate significant pressure on the state budget. Looking ahead, he said, a lot of support should be directed towards bolstering domestic manufacturers. “We can’t continue to rely on imports for everything. That’s just not sustainable,” he said. “We have to grow and manufacture locally.” He also stressed the importance of exports and the availability of foreign currency liquidity in the country (watch, runtime 20:59).
Pharma producers and government at odds again: Cabinet spokesman Ashraf Sultan told Lamees during a call-in that the announcement of new pharma prices should take place in 10 days, “but the Health Ministry is still in negotiations with local manufacturers” (watch, runtime 2:11). Pharma producers have been clashing with the government over what defines a “chronic illness,” after the health ministry said it would only be raising the prices of meds that remedy non-chronic diseases (more on that in the Speed Round). Osama Rostom, the Deputy Head of the Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI)’s pharma division, said “the health ministry should give us a clear definition.” Rostom added that Health Minister Ahmed Rady expects the new prices to go into effect by 1 February (watch, runtime 10:42).
Over on ONTV’s Kol Youm, Amr Adib was concerned whether pharma producers would be able to continue producing meds for chronic diseases if they are unable to increase their prices and loudly suggested that the government should cover the difference between the production cost and selling price of these medications. “Otherwise there will be a shortage in the market because the manufacturers won’t be able to sustain the losses,” he said (watch, runtime 1:18).
Yahduth fi Masr’s Sherif Amer also followed up on the meds squabble, but broke new ground only in a chat he had with GAFI chief Mohamed Khodeir about the draft Investment Act. “The new law conforms with the recent economic reform program and the Egypt 2030 Strategy,” he said. Khodeir said the law will help cut red tape by allowing online applications for permits and licenses. “The new law will allow GAFI to issue any approvals itself if [another government] entity doesn’t complete the task within 60 days of [a company’s] application,” he said.
No mention of new law at NGOs meeting with President: Amer also covered President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s meeting with representatives of various NGOs, which apparently did not broach the subject of the new law that was approved last month. Chairman of the Badrawi Foundation for Education and Development Hossam Badrawi, who attended the meeting, told Amer that the gathering focused on how NGOs can assist the community and help people meet their current needs, particularly with regards to food and meds.
Also on last night’s talk shows:
- A member of the House of Representatives’ legislative committee, Ahmed Helmy El Sherif, told El Hadidy during a phone call that the house might wait for the Administrative Court to issue its final verdict on the transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia before MPs discuss the treaty themselves (watch, runtime 3:39). The court decision is expected on 16 January.
- El Hadidy aired a report on diaper prices rising 110% over the last three months (watch, runtime 1:23);
- Adib broadcast a short piece on the opening of the Porto Sharm resort town in Sharm El Sheikh (watch, runtime 2:41).