The brevity of this morning’s issue reflects a news day cut short by continuing concern about the spread in Egypt of covid-19. Indeed, it is the shortest issue we remember having published outside of Ramadan in at least three years.
We have the rundown on what’s open and what’s closed through the end of the month in this morning’s Speed Round, and Information Minister Osama Heikal said last night that we should have more clarity on the government’s plan to reopen airspace after a presser today (see Last Night’s Talk Shows, below).
(Random note: A jet flew over the capital city this morning as we wrote those words. The sound made even the non-travelers among us all very happy.)
We set a new single-day record yesterday for deaths and infections, capping a three-day run of covid news in which the Madbouly government suggested some flights may resume in July. Meanwhile, curfew is now an hour shorter, running 8pm-4am.
Look for covid and the House of Representatives to dominate the news agenda here at home this week. Lawmakers are due to debate the nation’s draft FY2020-2021 budget and the bill that will establish the Senate as a reconstituted upper house of parliament.
Up for a final vote this week: The draft Central Depository Act, amendments to the Railway Act, the Infectious Diseases Act, and the Police Authority Act, as well as a bill regulating parking lots.
We’re heading to the polls once more this year to elect members to the Senate and the House of Representatives, most likely in November or December after the latter convenes again for its final session. That said, Ahram Online and Cairo 24 suggest we may be voting for the Senate in August, citing what they said was a report by state-owned Akhbar Al Youm. No other media outlets have picked up the news and we weren’t able to track down the piece in Akhbar, so take that with a grain of salt for the moment.
On the global front: We suspect we’ll be seeing plenty of hand-wringing this week about whether financial markets are in tune with economic reality. US shares suffered on Thursday their worst one-day slump in three months, with the Dow off nearly 7% and the S&P down just about 6%. Oil also took it on the chin as “at least for a day, reality triumphed over hope on Wall Street.” Equities clawed back a bit of ground on Friday, but still finished in the red for the week.
From the Department of the Obvious: “The idea that Covid is fully behind us, or that a V-shaped recovery is in front of us, were put on hold” on Thursday, one analyst told the New York Times.
What next? Concerns on both sides of the Atlantic. Check out Bad things happen when finance front-runs the economy, by the always-on-point Mohamed El-Erian and The real economic catastrophe hasn’t hit yet. Just wait for August in BuzzFeed, by former business and opinion editor Tom Gara.
News triggers coming up this month:
- The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to review interest rates on Thursday, 25 June;
- Founding members of the EastMed Gas Forum will meet this month to ink the Cairo-based energy organization’s charter;
- The IMF’s executive board is expected to approve this month a USD 5.2 bn standby agreement with Egypt.
PSA- Enterprise is taking a mental health day on Thursday. Our parent company is giving everyone on both sides of the house a day off to recharge their batteries, and Enterprise is taking its day on Thursday. Wish we could say we invented it, but we have shamelessly stolen the idea from the good people at Axios — we encourage your company to do the same. We’ll be back in your inboxes the following Sunday at the appointed hour.
*** How much do you love (or hate) e-learning? The Madbouly government signaled this week that e-learning could be on the menu again this fall — by itself or as part of a hybrid approach. Tell us how e-learning is working out in your household in a poll for our weekly Blackboard focus on education. As is our custom, we’ll draw the names of three respondents who will receive an Enterprise mug and a bag of our favorite coffee from our friends at 30 North. Tap or click here to take the survey. It’s quick and painless, we promise.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
Officials reported last night record-high figures for deaths and new confirmed infections in a single day. The Health Ministry confirmed 62 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 1,484. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 42,980 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,677 new infections yesterday (and 1,577 new cases on Friday). We now have a total of 12,919 confirmed cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 11,529 have fully recovered.
Two more doctors pass away from covid-19: Deputy Director of the National Heart Institute Yousry Kamel and gynecologist Adel Abdul Azim passed away over the weekend from covid-19. We reported last week that some 50 physicians have died of the illness, leading the Medical Syndicate to call on the Health Ministry to up its efforts to protect medical workers.
Housing Minister Assem El Gazzar is self-isolating for two weeks after coming into contact with someone infected with the virus, according to Masrawy.
Sports activities and events will be resumed in August and training camps for athletes will be allowed to restart in July on the condition that sports clubs and youth centers sterilize their facilities, Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhi told OnTime Sports (watch, runtime: 31:52).
A total of 232 hotels in 13 governorates are now permitted to operate at reduced capacity after another 14 received health and safety certificates over the weekend, the local press reports.
Emirates will operate four flights between Dubai and Cairo next week to return Egyptians stranded in the UAE, the airline said in a statement (pdf). The flights will run on 14, 18, 19 and 21 June.
Sudan has partially reopened its land border for trade with Egypt, after closing in March to stem the spread of covid-19, according to Sudan’s state news agency SUNA.
Orascom Construction has funded and built a new emergency reception unit for the Obstetrics and Gynaecology department at Kasr El Eini hospital, the company announced in a statement (pdf) on Thursday. The unit is capable of serving at least 100-120 patients per day.
South Korea has provided Egypt with USD 200k to assist the country’s emergency response to covid-19, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said on the sidelines of a meeting discussing foreign investment with South Korea’s ambassador to Egypt, Yoon Yeocheol, according to a ministry statement.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
Saudi Arabia could cancel hajj for the first time since the modern kingdom was founded in 1932, the Financial Times reports. Hajj is due to take place between 29 July and 4 August, but a recent surge in the infection rate has authorities concerned about the health and safety of the estimated 2 mn pilgrims due to travel. CNBC has also picked up the story.
The European Investment Bank green-lit on Thursday a EUR 7.5 bn funding package to support member countries’ responses to covid-19 and finance private sector investment, the lender said in a statement. The bank has allocated EUR 1.9 bn to Egypt and six other non-European countries to “strengthen the public healthcare response” to the pandemic, EUR 3.2 bn for health, business support and elderly care, and EUR 1.5 bn for investment in clean transport projects.
Beijing in partial lockdown after 45 people tested positive for covid-19 at the capital city’s largest vegetable market: Police have entirely shut down the neighboring areas while some 10k people employed at the market are being tested for the virus, the Guardian and Bloomberg report.
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-
Lebanon is facing ongoing mass protests after last week’s sudden currency collapse that saw the pound fall 50% against the greenback to LBP 6k on the parallel market in just four days, the Financial Times reports. Protesters blocked roads across the country on Friday as Prime Minister Hassan Diab called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss measures for lowering the exchange rate, which the government aims to bring back to LBP 3.2k.
Abraaj founder’s alleged misappropriation could be far more extensive than thought: Liquidators overseeing the insolvency of defunct private equity firm Abraaj have estimated that founder and CEO Arif Naqvi misappropriated USD 385 mn from clients, more than 1.5x what US prosecutors had estimated last year, reports Bloomberg. Naqvi was arrested in 2019 on fraud charges brought by a US court and is currently under house arrest in the UK facing a possible extradition. He denies any wrongdoing.
Saudi Arabia will “come out on top” in the battle for market share of the global oil market, JPMorgan said in a report picked up by Arab News. Falling output from the US shale industry and non-OPEC producers will help the kingdom increase its market share to 15% by 2025 from 11.6% currently — its highest level in four decades, the investment bank said.
On the value of investing in your staff: Hire prospective employees from diverse professional backgrounds — and cultivate the specific skills needed for your sector, SAP Egypt Managing Director Hoda Mansour told us on this week’s episode of Making It.
At a time when digital presence could act as a lifeline to businesses, Mansour provides a unique perspective from under the hood, and showcases the potential and impact of technological services on how we approach business and industry.
Tap or click here to listen to the episode on: Apple Podcast | Google Podcast | Our website | Omny. We’re also available on Spotify, but only for non-MENA accounts. Subscribe to Making It on your podcatcher of choice here.