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Thursday, 2 March 2017

Youssef Boutros Ghali interview on the economy; cabinet locked in discussions on the Universal Healthcare Act; you can buy a crib in the new capital in April

Mubarak-era Finance Minister Youssef Boutros Ghali wholeheartedly supports the reform agenda. In an interview with DMC’s Osama Kamal, the always brilliant YBG said the EGP float was “100% the right decision to make” despite coming three years too late. Boutros Ghali believes that the budget deficit is the single biggest problem facing the current Finance Ministry, urging the current government to slash spending, particularly on public sector employees.

There’s no way we can do justice to more than hour-long interview with one of the clearest thinkers on the economy ever to serve in cabinet, so we encourage you to watch the full interview with YBG here (runtime: 1:18:15).

YBG believes taxes are too high and says raising them would be slow down the economy. They should be low enough to make it more expensive to try to avoid taxes than to simply pay them, he suggested, pointing at the same time to a culture of distrust between the business community and the Tax Authority, which business owners feel gouges them.

As for investment policy, Boutros Ghali disagrees with the notion that there needs to be a new law. Instead, he thinks the way to go would be to constrain the power of the bureaucracy and cut red tape.

There are three things Egypt must focus on for long-term growth, YBG says:

  • Setting up a detailed database of welfare and subsidy beneficiaries to make the system more efficient;
  • Expand the banking system to cover a vastly wider swathe of the population;
  • Create a mechanism that creates meaningful loans and other financing for SMEs.

Boutros Ghali had great things to say about the current lineup of economic ministers, adding that they routinely consult with him on economic issues.

Meanwhile, Cabinet spokesman Ashraf Sultan said that the Ismail cabinet is now locked indiscussions over the Universal Healthcare Act and plans to complete the feasibility study on the bill in mid-March (more on progress of the bill in the Speed Round), in an interview with Al Hayah Al Youm’s Tamer Amin (watch, runtime: 5:46).

The Administrative Capital for Urban Development Company — the master developer of the New Administrative Capital — will begin selling homes in April, company board member Khaled Abbas tells Kol Youm’s Amr Adib. People can start moving to the new capital in 2Q18 (watch, runtime: 7:50).

Adib continued to rail against the decision to raise entry visas to Egypt to USD 60. Travel agency Blue Sky’s chairman Hussam El Shaer revealed on the show that Prime Minister Sherif Ismail appeared shocked to hear that tourist destinations tend to not charge for tourist visas when they met this week and promised to look into reversing the decision. El Shaer complained that the move would simply drive tourist traffic to Tunisia and Turkey, adding that the move is already attracting negative press in Germany (watch, runtime: 8:35).

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