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Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Budget discussions at the House start ahead of schedule

BUDGET WATCH- Discussions on the FY2018-19 budget plan in the House of Representatives began almost a week ahead of schedule as the House Budget Committee kicked off its deliberations on Sunday, according to Al Mal. From what we’re seeing, the committee appears to view the bill favorably. Committee chair Hussein Eissa and deputy chair Yasser Omar showered praise on the government’s plan to boost social welfare spending and raise commodity subsidy spending, saying the budget caters to lower income citizens. The FY2018-19 budget, which was introduced in the House last month, allocates EGP 322 bn to social welfare and protection programs and commodity subsidy spending.

Some information is finally trickling from parliament on plans for energy subsidy cuts, as the Ismail Cabinet has been tight-lipped on the issue. Eissa refuted reports that the government is planning more than one fuel subsidy cut, saying that this would significantly impact inflation. Eissa did not state any figures. Members of the House Energy Committee also praised the Electricity Ministry’s plan to postpone lifting electricity subsidies. While it had said it is planning to delay the full elimination of subsidies on power bills to FY2020-2021 from FY2019-2020, MPs seem to think the phase-out will be completed in 2022. The committee’s deputy chair Hamada Ghallab did extol the virtues of the electricity subsidy cuts, according to the newspaper.

In other House news, parliament’s Economic Committee is once again stomping its feet, calling for greater oversight on the unpopular “private funds” — state discretionary funds which have gained a reputation as slush funds. The committee is demanding the Finance Ministry show it accounts and cashflow of these funds, after it was revealed that a private fund belonging to the Cairo Governorate recorded a surplus of EGP 140 mn, sources said. Finance Minister Amr El Garhy had said last year that provisions for greater oversight of these funds will be included in amendments to the Auctions and Tenders Act.

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