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Monday, 5 March 2018

House of Representatives approves Railway Act amendments

LEGISLATION WATCH- Parliament approves private sector participation in railway sector development: The House of Representatives approved yesterday amendments to the Railway Act that would allow private sector participation in developing, managing, and operating railway projects, Ahram Gate reports. Under the law, private companies will be required to compete in public tenders for projects, in accordance with the Auctions and Tenders Act, Al Masry Al Youm reports. Companies can be contracted for a maximum of 15 years. The legislation establishes a new regulating body, the Egyptian Railways Authority, with the jurisdiction to govern private involvement in the sector. The new body will also have the authority to establish joint stock companies, and the authority’s employees will be granted priority in purchasing up to 10% of each of the state company’s shares. The amendments also criminalize any acts of vandalism and tampering with equipment in a way that hampers the safety of railway lines. Parliamentary Speaker Ali Abdel Aal had urged MPs to pass the bill to clear the path for an overhaul of the country’s rail system and avoid further accidents from occurring, Al Borsa reports.

The vote came after Transport Minister Hisham Arafat vowed that the country’s railways will see a marked improvement by mid-2019 on the back of constructing new lines, purchasing new locomotives, and installing electronic signaling systems, Al Shorouk reports. The ministry is also working to impose harsher penalties on railway employees found responsible for causing rail accidents, Arafat told Parliament in response to a summons over last week’s train collision in Beheira, which left 12 dead and 39 injured.

In other legislative news, unauthorized after-sales service centers should have a hard time operating once the Consumer Protection Act is issued, according to Consumer Protection Authority boss Atef Yakoub, who says that the bill will even penalize television channels that broadcast these business’ ads. The act sets strict rules and harsh penalties that could result in prison sentences of up to three years, he tells Al Borsa. The move is part of a series of auto industry-related provisions in the act that allows for possible price controls.

Separately, the decision to extend the mandate of the Tax Dispute Resolution Act for two years has been published in the Official Gazette, according to a Finance Ministry statement. The law resolved around 4,500 tax disputes and contributed EGP 15.1 bn to state coffers last year, the ministry said.

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