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Sunday, 5 March 2017

What we’re tracking on 05 March 2017

Hosni is out: Former President Hosni Mubarak’s was practically acquitted of charges of involvement in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising, after the Court of Cassation rejected an appeal by prosecutors on Thursday, allowing an acquittal verdict from 2014 to stand. The judge also rejected a civil petition for compensation from families of some of the 239 protesters killed during the uprising, the Associated Press reports. During the hearing, Mubarak denied the charges when he was read them, according to Reuters. He was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for conspiring to murder 239 demonstrators, but an appeals court ordered a retrial which was then dropped and appealed again by prosecution, reaching the Court of Cassation.

Mubarak does not face any other charges and is technically free to go, but it was unclear whether he would leave the hospital, where he has been under informal house arrest in recent years. In his first statement since the acquittal, Mubarak tells an extremely annoying, giggly reporter from Sada El Balad that he wants to go “home,” but “not Sharm El Sheikh” (watch; runtime: 1:33). Mubarak, who seemed as annoyed as us by the interviewer, brushed off all other questions on chances of further court appearances or who was responsible for the protester deaths. Sada El Balad also has footage of Mubarak being flown by helicopter from his hospital to the courthouse (watch, runtime: 4:40).

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry is heading to Brussels today for a one-day visit, during which he will meet with the EU’s 28 foreign ministers, according to the State Information Service. The details of a Turkey-style migration pact with the EU will likely take center-stage in Shoukry’s discussions on cooperation with the European leaders. Our chances for an agreement look good as German Chancellor Angela Merkel — who was in town over the weekend — promised to provide additional aid in Egypt in return for assistance in stemming the flow of illegal migrants to Europe (we have more on the Speed Round).

One thing to look forward to this week is EFG Hermes13th annual One on One conference — the region’s leading investor conference which takes place in Dubai tomorrow and will continue until Wednesday.

Something which should be looked at during the conference is HSBC Global Research’s latest report for Egypt (pdf) which suggests that 2017 “the year of rebalancing, not the year of recovery.” While the country has made progress on each the conditions laid out by the USD 12 bn IMF facility, the real challenge will be sustaining the momentum and commitment needed to follow through on these changes. Recent developments — such as the EGP float, the introduction of the value-added tax as well as other structural policy and fiscal reforms — has led HSBC to revise its macro forecasts for Egypt, seeing the exchange rate stabilize at EGP 18 per greenback, down from EGP 20. “It is the adjustment in the FX regime that has been the most striking evidence that the first phase of the reform process has substance.” Growth forecasts for 2018 also saw an upward revision, with expectations seeing reserves rising on the back of higher foreign currency inflows than originally estimated. Much remains to be done, however, and we must remain cautiously optimistic as we weather this difficult transition period, especially as the economy “must pay the bill for six years” of decline.

We’ve also picked reports over the weekend that Trump might be holding a summit on fighting Daesh this month. Diplomatic sources confirmed to Arab News that plans for the summit on a strategy for a combined anti-Daesh coalition had been in the works for weeks and could take place as early as 21 March. Egypt will be among the 60 countries expected to participate in the ministerial-level conference.

Patterson making a comeback? Former US ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson had been tapped by US Defense Secretary as his undersecretary of defense for policy, Politico reports. The move is unsurprisingly unpopular with the White House, as Patterson gained a reputation for being an Ikhwani sympathizer here in Egypt during her tenure as ambassador.

Traffic Alert: Traffic coming from the Alex Desert Road into Lebanon Square through the Mehwar (26 July corridor) will be rerouted for the next 45 days, while authorities shut down the highway for renovations, Youm7 reports. Take heed, those who hail from Six October or do the Smart Village commute.

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