Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Private sector front + center in new structural reform program

TL;DR

WHAT WE’RE TRACKING TODAY

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to the final workday of the week. Is there anything in the world better than a long weekend?

The country is on holiday tomorrow in observance of Sinai Liberation Day, which fell on Sunday, 25 April. Enterprise will also be taking the day off.

When will we be back in your inboxes? We still don’t know. Officials have yet to make clear whether Sunday (Coptic Easter) is a bank holiday, nor have they announced when we will observe Sham El Nessim, which falls on Monday. Expect an announcement over the coming days.

Oh, and Saturday is Labor Day, so abandon all hope if you had plans to get government paperwork done this weekend.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

IT’S INTEREST RATE DAY: The Central Bank of Egypt will meet later today to review rates. The Monetary Policy Committee typically meets on Thursdays, but moved the meeting due to the holiday tomorrow. Our poll of 14 economists and analysts suggests the committee will leave rates where they are.

The Federal Reserve will also be announcing whether it will make changes to its policy rate and emergency bond-buying programme when it finishes its two-day meeting later today. Fed chair Jay Powell is expected to announce a continuation of ultra-loose policy, with interest rates staying super low and the USD 120 bn a month QE programme remaining in place and untapered.

The UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process (we still have one of those?) is in Cairo for a three-day visit, Ahram Gate reports. Tor Wennesland will meet with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit to discuss recent events in Palestine. Tensions between right-wing Israelis and Palestinians have risen in Jerusalem in recent days after anti-Arab violence by Israeli extremists kicked off several nights of clashes between protesters and Israeli police.

What’s at stake? Wennesland’s visit comes as plans for the first Palestinian elections in 15 years, brokered by Egypt and Jordan earlier this year, are on the verge of collapsing as Israel refuses to allow voting in East Jerusalem. More on this in this morning’s Around the World, below.

South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem and the National Egyptian Railway Industries Company will sign today a memorandum of understanding to assemble railcars in Egypt, Al Masry Al Youm reports. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi yesterday discussed locally producing railcars and signalling equipment with the CEO of the company.


ALSO MAKING NEWS-

  • US President Joe Biden will address a joint session of Congress today to outline his legislative priorities and take a victory lap after his first 100 days. PBS has the story and Axios has a rundown on the behind-the-scenes politics over who gets an invite.
  • JP Morgan is going back to the office in the US on a “rotational” basis starting in July, the Financial Times writes.

WATCH THIS SPACE- Our biggest wheat supplier is ramping up exports again: Exports of Russian wheat, of which Egypt is the main buyer, rose for a third consecutive week on the back of higher prices in Chicago and Paris due to supply concerns, despite expectations that Russia’s “wheat tax” introduced earlier this year would slow exports.

*** CATCH UP QUICK with the top stories from yesterday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

PSA #1- So, when do we eat? On the 16th day of Ramadan, we’ll break our fasts at 6:30pm. Get your fill of water, food, and caffeine before 3:40am.

PSA #2- We’re heading into a weeklong heat wave. Look for the mercury to rise from 33°C today to 39°C by Friday and peak at 40°C on Monday and Tuesday, according to our favourite weather app.

** Can you help us out? If you’re reading us using Gmail and we went to your Promotions or any other “bad” tab, it would be super-helpful if you could drag us to your inbox to make sure you (and everyone else) sees you each morning.

enterprise

*** It’s Hardhat day — your weekly briefing of all things infrastructure in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, urban development and as well as social infrastructure such as health and education.

In today’s issue: The Planning Ministry’s sustainable development plan, which Minister Hala El Said unveiled a few days ago, lays out the government’s infrastructure investment plans for the upcoming fiscal year. While the strategy covers several sectors and areas for infrastructure development, we see greater focus and priority being given to healthcare infrastructure, while transport continues to account for the lion’s share of the government’s investment budget.

enterprise

POLICY

Economic reform program, Mk. II

Egypt will embark on a three-year program of structural reforms designed to support private sector-led economic growth and capitalize on recent economic reforms, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly and Planning Minister Hala El Said said at a press conference yesterday. The next round of reforms will target specific sectors of the economy and state institutions in a bid to create sustainable growth and overcome the economic shock of the pandemic, the ministers said.

The new round of reforms is being billed as a successor program to the recent IMF-backed monetary and fiscal adjustments. Starting with the EGP float in 2016, the government pushed through measures to shore up its fiscal position and restore investor confidence in the economy.

One key caveat: We still don’t know a lot about what the government has in mind. The PM’s announcement was policy light and focused more on outlining the government’s ambitions over the next three years rather than laying out specific reform proposals.

So what do we know so far?

The government has a clear idea of where it wants to be when 2023-2024 comes around: Policymakers think they can achieve an annual growth rate of 6-7% over the next three years — an ambitious target given recent IMF projections, which see the country reaching 5.8% growth by 2025-2026. The plan sees the budget deficit narrowing to 5.5% from an expected 7.7% this year — roughly in line with IMF expectations (pdf) — and the primary surplus growing to 2%. The government also wants to achieve a balance of payment surplus of USD 3-5 bn by the end of the program. Egypt recorded a USD 8.5 bn BOP deficit in FY 2019-2020.

Tech and manufacturing are “in”: The government will focus its efforts on developing the manufacturing, telecoms and IT, and agriculture sectors. It wants to push policies that will result in their combined share of GDP rising to 30-35% by 2023-2024 from 26% last year, Planning Minister Hala El Said said during the presser. The government wants to up exports in each of these sectors and better integrate local industry into international value chains via higher value-added manufacturing.

A focus on private sector-led growth: The plan sees private sector development as a vital step to developing the three sectors. It indicates that measures would be taken to liberalize trade, improve competition and upgrade transportation and logistics infrastructure to improve the environment for private business, but stops short of providing details. It also sees an increased role for private sector firms in providing vocational education and training. Measures will be taken to “simplify and standardize legislation,” accelerate financial inclusion, and upgrade digital infrastructure.

A nod to “social peace”: Madbouly emphasized that the new reforms will not cut into entitlements including the food subsidy program and spending on the social safety net and welfare during the three-year period. Reforms enacted since 2016 including the lifting of fuel subsidies were unpopular with many in a period that has seen the poverty rate rise significantly.

The private sector is waiting to feel the benefit: The IMF and World Bank insist that meaningful structural reforms are essential to increasing private investment in the economy and supporting private sector growth. New structural reforms were the subject of talks between Egypt and the IMF last year over the USD 5.2 bn standby loan, while the World Bank and IFC said recently that many private businesses are yet to feel the benefits of the government’s reforms, and urged further reform on trade policy, transparency and state involvement in the economy. PMI data shows that private sector business activity outside the oil and gas sector has grown in only five months over the past three years.

The presser got attention in the foreign press yesterday: Reuters | Bloomberg.

COVID WATCH

Covid cases top 1k for first time since mid-January

We’re back in four-figure daily covid cases for the first time since mid-January: The Health Ministry reported 1,003 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 991 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 224,517 confirmed cases of covid-19. The most recent peak occurred on 31 December when the ministry reported 1,418 in a single day.

Sixty-one new deaths were also reported yesterday, the highest daily figure since 3 January. The country’s total death toll is now 13,168.

Is Egypt going to receive J&J vaccines? Possibly, according to presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin, who told Masaa DMC last night that Egypt may receive doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the African Union (watch, runtime: 4:43 I 5:23). Tag Eldin didn’t mention how many doses we could receive nor through which mechanism they would be delivered.

Almost 3 mn doses of other vaccines are coming this week and the next: Some 900k doses of the Sinopharm vaccine will arrive this week and Egypt is also set to get its hands on 2 mn AstraZeneca jabs from the Gavi / Covax scheme in the first week of May.

Egypt’s Evangelical Church will be holding Easter services this year without worshippers as the country’s covid-19 tally continues to surge, according to a statement. The annual mass — to be held this Saturday at 1:30 pm at the Heliopolis Evangelical Church — will be limited to Church officials and will instead be broadcast on Egyptian TV.

Sheikh Hafez Salama, a leader of Popular Resistance during the 1973 October War in Suez, passed away last Monday at the age of 96 due to covid-19, local media reported.

IN GLOBAL COVID NEWS-

The Eastern Mediterranen region has witnessed a 22% increase in covid-19 infections this week and a 17% uptick in deaths over the same period, said WHO Eastern Mediterranean director Ahmed Al-Mandhari during a World Immunization Week press conference (watch, runtime 1:50:30). The eighth week of rising infections in the region comes after four weeks of reported decreases in case counts. We can thank relaxed safety protocols and increased travel in the region, Al-Mandhari added.

Brazil has blocked imports of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine over what it described as “serious” defects and “inherent risks,” Reuters reports. This comes days after Egypt’s local pharma company Minapharm signed an agreement with the Russian sovereign wealth fund to begin in 3Q2021 manufacturing some 40 mn doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine annually, which will be earmarked for “global distribution.” The vaccine received emergency use approval in Egypt earlier this year.

The Russians quickly rejected the finding: The developers said their conclusions don’t have scientific backing, while the Russian sovereign wealth fund suggested the decision was politically motivated. The vaccine’s main developer, Denis Logunov, said the shots were “clean” and do not contain adenoviruses capable of reproducing inside the human body.

ECONOMY

On the dole

Spending to tackle the fallout from covid-19 has exceeded the EGP 100 bn earmarked for a government stimulus package announced at the onset of the pandemic, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told Al Arabiya.

Where did we spend it? The bill has so far included:

  • EGP 22 bn for healthcare
  • EGP 10 bn in breaks on energy costs for factories
  • EGP 10 bn for the tourism and hospitality industry
  • EGP 8 bn in monthly stipends to day laborers, Maait said.

The government also had to ramp up spending on vaccine purchases in recent months, Maait added.

The government had forked out EGP 63 bn by early June, spending the sum on staple commodities, industry support, and healthcare. Maait told Al Arabiya that that figure had gone up to EGP 90 bn by the end of the last fiscal year on 30 June.

Background: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi had allocated the EGP 100 bn stimulus and bailout package, which amounted to nearly 2% of GDP, in late March to insulate the economy from the impact of covid-19 outbreak.

TOURISM

Russians returning to Sharm could reel in USD 3 bn -Goldman Sachs

The full resumption of Russian flights to Egypt could eventually generate some USD 3 bn in tourism revenues, according to Goldman Sachs research picked up by Ahram Online. The report, which estimates that each Russian tourist spends on average about USD 1k per trip, notes that there is “uncertainty” on when Egypt will unlock those revenues, as the resumption of flights remains dependent on covid-19 containment measures and the two countries’ vaccination programs. The investment bank’s estimates are in line with tourism revenues circa 2015, when 3 mn Russians visited Egypt annually before the 2015 Metrojet crash that led Moscow to suspend flights for the past six years.

Based on Tourism Ministry projections, we’re not locking down the full USD 3 bn this year, at least. Deputy Tourism Minister Ghada Shalaby said earlier this week that the resumption of direct flights between Russia and Egypt, including Red Sea resorts, next month could bring as many as 1 mn Russian tourists to us this year. By Goldman’s math, we should end the year with just USD 1 bn in Russian tourism revenues.

OTHER TOURISM NEWS: 110 tombs have been discovered in an ancient graveyard in Dakahlia in the governorate’s Kom El Khaligan region, according to a cabinet statement yesterday. The burial site is home to 68 oval-shaped tombs that date back to the Predynastic Period from 6000-3160 BC, and 37 rectangular tombs believed to date back to 1782-1570 when the Hyksos Dynasty ruled Egypt. Among the possessions located alongside the bodies were ovens, stoves, jewels and clay pots. The Associated Press also took note of the story.

LEGISLATION WATCH

State electric companies given more time to adjust to a future without subsidies

The delay of the Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company’s split from the Egyptian Electricity Holding Company (EEHC) until 2025 was approved in principle by the House of Representatives, Al Mal reports. Under the new amendments to the 2015 Electricity Act, state-owned electricity production and distribution companies have more time to restructure their operations as the government phases out electricity subsidies over a longer period.

Authorities had originally planned to end subsidies in 2022, but decided to push the date to 2025. The amendments will still be considered in a final vote.

OTHER LEGISLATION NEWS- Tahya Misr Fund will be exempt from all taxes and fees on its gains, loans and other lines of credit, under a bill approved during a plenary session yesterday, reports Youm7. The bill excludes gains made by the fund through the holding of treasury bills and bonds, and also exempts the state-controlled fund from property registry fees and custom dues.

The House separately approved extending the nationwide state of emergency for three months.

DIPLOMACY

Ethiopia says GERD “threats” are “futile”

“Threats” from Egypt and Sudan over the GERD are “futile,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry spokesperson said yesterday, accusing the two countries of prolonging negotiations and calling current water-sharing agreements “unacceptable.” Talks between the three countries broke down earlier this month after they were unable to agree on who should mediate a new round of negotiations. Ethiopia has pledged to go ahead with the second filling of the dam this summer, an act President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has called a “red line.” Sudan on Friday said it would sue the Ethiopian government and the Italian company constructing the dam if it went ahead with the filling.

This sentiment was echoed by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly yesterday, reiterating that Egypt will not give up a drop of its water. The Egyptian government is exerting “double the effort” to find ways of preserving the country’s water resources via desalination and different agricultural methods.

Sudan FM on Africa tour to talk GERD: Sudanese Foreign Minister Mariam Al Sadiq Al Mahdi is on a tour of African countries beginning with a visit to the DRC to reiterate her country’s support for African Union mediation to resolve the dispute.

IN OTHER DIPLO NEWS- Egypt and US beef up military ties: Egypt and the US have signed a memorandum of understanding to “facilitate reciprocal provision of military logistic support, supplies, and services,” the US embassy in Cairo said in a statement. The agreement will, among other things, “facilitate logistics and US force participation during Bright Star 2021,” a flagship regional military exercise that sees US and Egyptian forces drill with regional partners.

MOVES

It’s nice to see friends doing well:

Lamia Kamel (LinkedIn) has been tapped as assistant tourism minister for marketing and promotion, the ministry said in a statement. Kamel is the founder and chairman of public relations firm CC Plus, which she set up back in 2006 after spending four years as a public relations manager at Vodafone Egypt.

Aser Mokhtar (LinkedIn) has joined e-payments platform Fawry as senior investor relations associate. Mokhtar brings several years of investor relations experience to the company, including from his time at Inktank, the investor relations firm, Raya Holding, and CI Capital.

Essam El Wakil (LinkedIn) has been appointed chairman of the board at Egypt Post’s investment arm Post Investment. Wakil previously served as a board member at SAIB Bank and CI Capital as well as at CIB, where he was also a C-suite officer.

enterprise

ENTERPRISE+: LAST NIGHT’S TALK SHOWS

The talking heads are increasingly concerned about the rising number of covid cases, with Ala Mas’ouleety’s Ahmed Moussa warning of the potential nightmare scenario: He suggested that Egypt could soon find itself in the same situation as India, whose health system is on the verge of collapse due to the exponential rise in cases (watch, runtime 4:06). Masaa DMC’s Ramy Radwan voiced the same concerns, noting that unregistered daily cases in Egypt could be up to 70k compared to the official 1k average (watch, runtime: 2:33 I 3:52 I 5:50).

A huge “Yes, but…” India is currently setting world records of more than 300k cases a day. Egypt’s official tally yesterday was a little over 1k.

The situation in Egypt is still not disastrous: Presidential health advisor Mohamed Awad Tag Eldin told Masaa DMC that the country’s hospitals are able to accomodate the current level of cases and field hospitals are ready to be launched if necessary (watch, runtime: 4:43 I 5:23). The Health Ministry said yesterday that the country shored up its oxygen reserves to reach 2.2 mn liters of medical-grade oxygen from 1.16 mn in February following a recent directive from the prime minister to accumulate at least 3 mn liters of oxygen in reserve.

More blame levelled at Ramadan: Tag Eldin said that there is a continuous increase in covid-19 because we’re all ignoring guidelines on large gatherings and the like during the holy month (watch, runtime: 4:43 I 5:23). Show host Ramy Radwan called for a ban to be imposed on Ramadan tents.

Egypt between a rock and a hard place on GERD: Egypt may face tough scenarios following the second filling of GERD, but the country is trying to reach a solution that would lessen the impact and avoid having a drought in the long run, Moussa said (watch, runtime: 2:00).

Some European MPs are backing Egypt and Sudan: Ala Mas’ouleety covered a recent meeting of the European Parliament at which some MPs supported Egypt and Sudan's stance on GERD (watch, runtime: 2:45). Green MP Mounir Satouri said Ethiopia’s right to grow should not be at the cost of Egypt and Sudan’s water security. He added that Ethiopia's unilateral actions are not acceptable and conflict with international laws that protect the rights of downstream countries. Another European MP, Isabel Santos, called on the EU to step up efforts to end the crisis. The talk show’s reporter, Magdy Youssef, said that this doesn't mean that Europe will force Ethiopia to change direction, but is nonetheless a positive step that Egypt and Sudan can build on.

EGYPT IN THE NEWS

It’s a mixed bag in the foreign press this morning: Egyptians’ fondness for long, casual phone calls was an inspiration for Yang Tao, founder of the voice-based social media app Yalla, which launched in the Middle East in 2016, the Financial Times wites. Reuters has a video on Twitter about one of many women mesaharateya in the capital city. The National has a puff piece about Bedouin in Sinai during Ramadan, while DesignTAXI notes that Harvard University’s Digital Giza Project has online 3D tours of the Giza Pyramids.

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Unionaire Group Technology has announced its rebranding to UGT. The new entity will include Unionaire, Premium, Fine Stone and TCL, and plans to double annual exports to USD 100 mn by the end of 2021. The new company’s new EGP 1 bn industrial complex, located in Sixth of October, will also have its full output allocated for exports when it opens in 2022.

Cairo’s criminal court has sentenced the man accused of the attempted [redacted] assault of a young girl in Maadi to 10 years in prison, Youm7 reports. The trial began on 30 March just a few weeks after shocking video footage of the defendant attacking the girl went viral online.

Arrest following yet another rail accident: Egypt’s Public Prosecution has ordered a railway technician to be detained for four days after a train collided with a pick-up truck in Suez’s Al Amer village yesterday, killing one person and injuring three, the prosecutor said in a statement. This is the fourth fatal accident on Egypt’s rail network in just one month, after the deadly train crashes in Sohag, Qalyubia and Sharqia.

OTHER THINGS we’re keeping an eye on this morning:

  • CIB will facilitate the payment and disbursement of microloans for clients of the Alexandria Business Association through its smart wallets, Meeza cards or bank accounts.
  • The MSME Development Agency and Gastec converted 9.5k cars to run on natgas in 1Q2021, at an estimated cost of EGP 75 mn.
  • The Higher Education Ministry has launched the first incubator program for clean and green technology in Upper Egypt, as part of the Tanmia wa Tatweer: Egypt's Entrepreneurship Development Project.

PLANET FINANCE

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Yesterday was a huge day for tech earnings: Google parent Alphabet smashed sales records in 1Q thanks to a splurge in digital ad spending, the Financial Times reports. Revenues hit a record USD 55.3 bn during the three-month period, causing net profit to surge 162% to USD 17.9 bn, blowing past analysts’ forecasts of USD 10.5 bn. The company announced plans to spend USD 50 bn on share buybacks, sending its share price 4.5% higher in after hours trading, and handing it a record USD 1.6 tn market cap.

Microsoft’s earnings also beat expectations, led by its cloud business and strong sales of PCs and games consoles, the FT says. The company’s revenues were up 19% during the quarter to USD 41.7 bn, narrowly beating analysts’ forecasts of USD 41 bn. All three of Microsoft’s cloud divisions saw large revenue growth with its Intelligent Cloud business delivering the strongest performance.

UBS’ net income in 1Q2021 increased 14% y-o-y on record-high client activity levels, despite the Swiss outfit reporting USD 861 mn in losses after the collapse of Archegos Capital Management, according to an earnings release (pdf). UBS said it had completely liquidated its exposure to Archegos this month, which resulted in an overall drop of USD 434 mn in its quarterly net profits. The blow, however, was less severe than that suffered by the bank’s peers including Credit Suisse’s USD 5.5 bn Archegos hit.

A “leading” foreign energy company is in talks with the Saudi government to purchase a 1% stake in Saudi Aramco, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman told local media, Bloomberg reports. Aramco — still the world’s most valuable company despite the tumult in the oil markets last year — could also go ahead with secondary offerings in the next two years, he said. The government listed a 1.5% stake on the Saudi Tadawul in 2019, raising some USD 30 bn and setting a record for the largest IPO in history.

Turkey could look to regulate its crypto market after the country’s Thodex and Vebitcoin exchanges collapsed last week, a senior Turkish official told Bloomberg.

Abu Dhabi and Qatar are the only two sovereigns in the GCC expected to record fiscal surpluses this year, as other MENA oil exporters are still reeling from the covid-19 shock to oil prices, according to Fitch Ratings.

Up EGX30 10,591 +0.6% (YTD: -2.3%)
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Down Gold USD 1,772.00 -0.4%
Up BTC USD 55,502 +3.2% (as of midnight)

The EGX30 rose 0.6% yesterday on turnover of EGP 976 mn (23.9% below the 90-day average). Local investors were net sellers. The index is down 2.3% YTD.

In the green: Export Development Bank (+4.0%), Credit Agricole (+3.6%) and Qalaa Holdings (+3.4%).

In the red: GB Auto (-2.6%), Telecom Egypt (-1.5%) and Oriental Weavers (-1.4%).

Asian markets are down in early trading this morning and US and European futures point to markets opening in the green ahead of the Fed announcement later today.

AROUND THE WORLD

Plans for Palestinian elections on verge of collapse: The Palestinian Authority is expected to call off parliamentary elections slated for 22 May if Israel continues to block voting in East Jerusalem, unnamed Egyptian officials told the Associated Press. Moving forward without the 6k votes from East Jerusalem would amount to a tacit acceptance of Israel’s annexation of the territory, argues Islamist group Hamas, rejecting the possibility of a vote that excludes the area. A cancellation of the vote could also benefit Fatah party president Mahmoud Abbas’ whose faction is set to lose out to Hamas in the election. Egypt has been in talks with Israel to negotiate a compromise that would permit voting in East Jerusalem to move forward, but diplomatic efforts on that front seem to have broken down. An official decision on the fate of elections expected to be issued tomorrow.

Israel accused of apartheid: Human Rights Watch has accused Israel of committing crimes of "apartheid” against Palestinians in a 213-page report, and has asked the International Criminal Court to "investigate and prosecute individuals credibly implicated" in such crimes. Israel's foreign ministry called the report "both preposterous and false,” according to Reuters.

Also worth knowing this morning:

  • Moscow-Washington summit: Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Joe Biden could meet as soon as June amid rising tensions between the two countries, according to Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov.
  • Qatar has ramped up its lobbying efforts in the US this year, hiring seven new firms for some USD 2.2 mn, as Doha looks to secure better diplomatic relations with Washington under the Biden administration, Bloomberg reports.
hardhat

We have a breakdown of the government’s public investment plans for Egypt’s infrastructure projects in FY2021-2022: A few days ago, Planning Minister Hala El Said laid out the government’s sustainable development plan for FY2021-2022 in an address to the House of Representatives, as Cabinet presented its draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In terms of overall size, the budget passed the EGP 1.25 tn mark — a 51% y-o-y increase from last year’s budget of EGP 826.8 bn. Three-quarters of overall spending (or EGP 933 bn) is earmarked for public investment, which the government hopes will help spur a gradual economic recovery that will begin in 1H2021-2022, before picking up steam in the back half of the fiscal year.

So, where is all this money going? The coming fiscal year marks the last year of the ministry’s medium-term sustainable development plan. Priority will be given to funding existing projects, which are expected to be completed during FY2021-2022, especially in the healthcare sector (as one would expect from spending priorities in a pandemic). But the major spending areas will be “commodity sectors,” which encompass agriculture, industry, energy, and construction, and together account for 38% (around EGP 475 bn) of the investments. Transport alone remains the single-largest recipient of infrastructure investment, followed by construction and energy. We look at the item-by-item breakdown of the government’s infrastructure investment plans, and explain the context that went into the choices in priority.

But first, a snapshot of the (global and domestic) economic backdrop against which these investment plans were drawn up: Global GDP contracted by 4% in 2020, while Egypt’s GDP grew 3.6% in FY2019-2020, according to El Said. Globally, some 114 mn people lost their jobs last year, raising global unemployment rates to 12.6%. Here at home, unemployment dropped to 7.2% in 2Q2020-2021. The government also earmarked EGP 100 bn for a stimulus package designed to curb the negative impact of covid, which was largely invested in ensuring food security, supporting manufacturers, and bolstering healthcare.

Considering the huge toll the pandemic took on the global economy, it’s no surprise that healthcare investments will increase a whopping 205%, coming in at EGP 47.5 bn for FY2021-2022. The investment strategy will prioritize getting 23 hospitals — which are 70% complete at this point — up and running, increasing the number of ICU beds nationwide by 55% to 8.1k and the number of incubators by 10% to 5.3k. With an eye to make Egypt self-sufficient in plasma derivative, the government is planning to build 20 plasma collection centers, 14 of which will be completed in FY2021-2022. EGP 1 bn will be dedicated to enhancing the capacity of hospitals, including 23 chest hospitals and 42 fever hospitals — both of which are critical in absorbing covid-19 patients.

There’s ongoing investment in infrastructure for the universal healthcare scheme, including developing 38 hospitals and 30 primary care units in eight governorates. And other development plans include overhauls at “model hospitals” and digitizing some 115 university hospitals.

Pandemic aside, prioritizing healthcare infrastructure investments also makes sense because the vaccination program is expected to be a major driver of Egypt’s economic recovery next fiscal year. The government is targeting GDP growth of 5.4% in FY2021-2020 (to bring total GDP to EGP 7.1 tn), up from the 2.8% expected for the current fiscal year. In addition to the vaccine rollout, GDP growth is expected to be buoyed by the second phase of the economic and social reform program (which we recap in the news well, above), supporting monetary and fiscal policies to push production forward, focusing on spending in education, and continuing national megaprojects.

Priority area #2: Transport. The budget for the transport sector is penciled in at EGP 245 bn, which covers roads, bridges, and river ports, as well as projects under the National Authority for Tunnels. This category does not include the traditional railway. In the transport sector, some of the major projects include developing 106 km of the dreaded Ring Road, as well as the EGP 1.1 bn development of 350 km of highways (Fayoum-Wahat, Assiut-Sohag-Red Sea, and Suez-Geneifa-Ismailia), and building three new axes — King Salman, Autostrad Fardous, and Matrouh-Siwa — spanning a combined 324 km, at an expected cost of EGP 2.9 bn. Then there’s another EGP 1.5 bn earmarked for 15 alternative bridges for ferries on waterways.

The transport budget also covers the electric rail, monorail, and metro projects under the National Authority for Tunnels’ purview, which is getting EGP 113 bn. These include the high-speed electric rail Orascom Construction, Arab Contractors, and Siemens are working on, as well as the monorail, which will connect 6th of October City to Giza and Nasr City to the new administrative capital. These projects are particularly important as the new administrative capital will be inaugurated in June and ministries are set to move their offices to the city, meaning the government must provide transport options to and from the new capital. Then there’s the Cairo Metro Line 3, and Phase 1 of Line 4, both of which are slated for completion in FY2021-2022.

Priority #3: Railways. The National Railway Authority is getting EGP 27 bn in state investments to work on railway projects, including developing 1.1k level crossings and signal systems, and complete the Qanater Khairiya bridge of 490 m. Earlier this week, Transport Minister Kamel El Wazir came under fire in parliament as he was questioned about several deadly train accidents in the past month. The ministry will start working on 27 new projects in July that will cost the government some EGP 132 bn, El Wazir said. This is part of a 10-year, EGP 225 bn plan to upgrade the country’s rail network that is due to finish in 2024.

Priority #4: Education, which is looking at a EGP 56 bn investment plan to set up 93 new schools in underserved areas and 3.1k mobile classrooms. As the pandemic pushed the Education Ministry and Higher Education Ministry to administer major exams online, it makes sense that EGP 1 bn is going towards providing 600k tablets for school students and digitizing 154 examination centers in universities. The government is also planning to complete the construction of three public universities, and build two new ones across governorates, in addition to setting up 12 new non-profit private universities and operating nine digital universities.

Priority #5- Water. As negotiations over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam continue to hit a wall and we face the threat of Egypt’s water supply being negatively affected, water projects are getting a 67% y-o-y bump in investments to reach EGP 21 bn. These projects — including extending the existing water network and expanding its capacity — should cover the potable water needs of about 99% of the population, El Said said. Meanwhile, on the agriculture side of the water equation, the water resources and irrigation budget is set at EGP 21 bn. The projects under this category aim to increase our produce output and efficiency by developing irrigation systems, introducing water-saving techniques and developing canals.

ALSO COVERED in the government’s infrastructure development plans:

  • The energy sector is getting EGP 43 bn, with a special focus on renewables, and priority going to underserved areas such as North Sinai. The investments will also increase airports’ energy capacity, and set up an energy producing water station project in Suez, among others.
  • Sewage is getting EGP 1.5 bn of investments for 36 new projects to increase the network’s capacity and coverage;
  • ICT is allotted EGP 18.6 bn to digitize government documents, set up e-visas, and provide digital ins. for foreigners in Egypt;
  • Social housing is getting EGP 50 bn, which will cover building 390k homes and developing 3.9k feddans in unplanned / informal settlements;
  • The Suez Canal Zone will see new tunnels built under the canal, while the government plans to expand logistical centers at the Suez Canal Economic Zone;
  • Two dry ports — 10th of Ramadan and 6th of October — which should be completed next fiscal year. Eleven others should be following later on;
  • The manufacturing sector is also included in the budget, but the exact amount of funding and the specific projects were not specified. The strategy broadly plans to focus on deepening local production of intermediate inputs, and linking up with global supply chains.

Your top infrastructure stories for the week:

  • OC is having a good quarter: Orascom Construction added USD 650 mn in new awards to its backlog during the first quarter of 2021, 85% of which are awards for projects in Egypt.
  • New sewage treatment plants: Construction is underway on 151 sewage treatment plants worth EGP 31.6 bn, with a total capacity of 5 mn cubic meters per day, Housing Minister Assem El Gazzar said in a statement, with plans to complete another 14 desalination plants worth EGP 9.7 bn by June.
  • Dakahlia power grid upgrades: State-owned Egyptian Electricity Transmission Company and Hitachi ABB Power Grids signed a contract worth EGP 1.14 bn for a new control center for the high-voltage power grid in Dakahlia’s Talkha, the Electricity Ministry said in a statement.
  • Railway overhaul: The government is considering establishing three JVs with foriegn firms as part of its plans to involve the private sector in the management of Egypt’s state-owned railway.

CALENDAR

26-28 April (Monday-Wednesday): Non Edadiya / Thanaweya Amma students sit end-of-year exams.

28 April (Wednesday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

29 April (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Sinai Liberation Day.

29 April (Thursday): Start of school summer holiday for students not sitting Adadiya / Thanaweya Amma exams.

1 May (Saturday): Labor Day (national holiday).

2 May (Sunday): Coptic Easter Sunday (holiday for Coptic Christians, still unclear whether it will be a banking holiday).

3 May (Monday): Sham El Nessim (date of the national holiday still TBC).

13-15 May (Thursday-Saturday): Eid El Fitr (TBC).

16-19 May (Sunday-Wednesday): The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) takes place in Dubai.

25-28 May (Tuesday-Friday): The World Economic Forum annual meeting, Singapore.

1 June (Tuesday): The IMF will conduct a second review of targets set under the USD 5.2 bn standby loan approved in June 2020 (proposed date).

7-9 June (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Petroleum Show, Egypt International Exhibition Center, New Cairo, Egypt.

17 June (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

17-20 June (Thursday-Sunday) : The International Exhibition of Materials and Technologies for Finishing and Construction (Turnkey Expo), Cairo International Conference Center.

24 June (Thursday): End of the 2020-2021 academic year (public schools).

26-29 June (Saturday-Tuesday): The Big 5 Construct Egypt, Cairo International Convention Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 June (Wednesday): 30 June Revolution Day.

30 June- 15 July: National Book Fair.

July + August: Thanaweya Amma exams take place.

1 July: (Thursday): National holiday in observance of 30 June Revolution.

1 July (Thursday): Large taxpayers that have not yet signed on on to the e-invoicing platform will suffer a host of penalties, including removal from large taxpayer classification, losing access to government services and business, and losing subsidies.

19 July (Monday): Arafat Day (national holiday).

20-23 July (Tuesday-Friday): Eid Al Adha (national holiday)

23 July (Friday): Revolution Day (national holiday).

5 August (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

9 August (Monday): Islamic New Year.

12 August (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Islamic New Year.

12-15 September (Sunday-Wednesday): Sahara Expo: the 33rd International Agricultural Exhibition for Africa and the Middle East.

16 September (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

30 September-2 October (Thursday-Saturday): Egypt Projects 2021 expo, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt.

30 September-8 October (Thursday-Friday): The 54th session of the Cairo International Fair, Cairo International Conference Center, Cairo, Egypt.

1 October (Friday): Expo 2020 Dubai opens.

6 October (Wednesday): Armed Forces Day.

7 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of Armed Forces Day.

12-14 October (Tuesday-Thursday) Mediterranean Offshore Conference, Alexandria, Egypt

18 October (Monday): Prophet’s Birthday.

21 October (Thursday): National holiday in observance of the Prophet’s Birthday.

28 October (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

1-3 November (Monday-Wednesday): Egypt Energy exhibition on power and renewable energy, Egypt International Exhibition Center, Cairo, Egypt

1-12 November (Monday-Friday): 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), Glasgow, United Kingdom.

29 November-2 December (Monday-Thursday): Egypt Defense Expo

13-17 December: United Nations Convention against Corruption, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

16 December (Thursday): The CBE’s Monetary Policy Committee will meet to review interest rates.

May 2022: Investment in Logistics Conference, Cairo, Egypt.

27 June-3 July 2022 (Monday-Sunday): World University Squash Championships, New Giza.

**Note to readers: Some national holidays may appear twice above. Since 2020, Egypt has observed most mid-week holidays on Thursdays regardless of the day on which they fall and may also move those days to Sundays. We distinguish below between the actual holiday and its observance.

Enterprise is a daily publication of Enterprise Ventures LLC, an Egyptian limited liability company (commercial register 83594), and a subsidiary of Inktank Communications. Summaries are intended for guidance only and are provided on an as-is basis; kindly refer to the source article in its original language prior to undertaking any action. Neither Enterprise Ventures nor its staff assume any responsibility or liability for the accuracy of the information contained in this publication, whether in the form of summaries or analysis. © 2021 Enterprise Ventures LLC.