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Monday, 12 February 2018

Privatizing railways gets preliminary nod from Parliament

LEGISLATION WATCH- Privatization of railways gets preliminary nod from Parliament: The House of Representatives gave its preliminary sign-off on amendments to the Railway Act on Sunday that would open up the sector to private companies, Al Masry Al Youm reports. The amendments will allow businesses to build and operate railway lines and to bid for upgrade projects. As we noted last year, the law at this time will not allow private companies to own railway assets. The law would also establish a new railways regulator to govern private sector involvement in sector projects.

Also yesterday, the House voted in favor of extending the mandate of the Tax Dispute Resolution Act for another two years, according to a statement from the Finance Ministry. MPs had also signed off on amendments to the law that establish committees to settle real estate tax disputes. The ministry also stated that it will be restructuring current tax dispute committees and will form new ones to handle cases involving the stamp and value-added tax. Since its inception in 2016, the law has resolved around 7,000 tax disputes and contributed EGP 15.6 bn to state coffers, the ministry added.

The House also gave preliminary approval yesterday to amendments to the Eminent Domain Act, which grant the president of the republic the right to seize privately-owned land under eminent domain and offer compensation, which must include a 20% premium on the value of the land, Al Mal reports. A final vote on the law, which also grants governors the right to seize land temporarily under the statute, was postponed due to lack of quorum. The law appears to be part of a series of acts that primarily aim to curb informal settlements and building violations, MPs tell the newspaper.

Also on the docket is the Unified Building Code, another tool to curb the spread of informal housing, which members of the Housing Committee finished reviewing yesterday, the newspaper adds. The legislation — which is currently pending the Council of State’s sign-off to go to a plenary session — focuses on facilitating the process of issuing building permits by cutting down the time for obtaining a license to 30 days and allowing some engineering consultancy offices to issue them. It also tightens safety codes and ensures that the law is better enforced through a new supreme council for urban planning and development that will be mandated with setting nationwide policy.

The Unified Building Code will be issued alongside another law that specifically tackles building code violations, Housing Committee member Khaled Abdel Aziz Fahmy said. The law would have a temporary mandate of around eight months, during which authorities will tally and resolve disputes over building code violations that satisfy six conditions, such as meeting certain criteria for architectural integrity, he explained.

In other legislative news, President Abdel Fattah El Sisi issued a decree on Sunday that grants the Trade and Industry Minister the right to set extensions and deadlines for importers to comply with amendments to the Imports Registry Act, Al Borsa reports.

Finally: Amendments to the Companies Act executive regulations came into effect yesterday, after being published in the Official Gazette, Youm7 says. The Investment Ministry had issued the changes on Friday. Key features include banning companies from holding onto treasury stocks for over a year and limiting share buybacks to 10% of a company’s shares.

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