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Monday, 16 April 2018

Budget, Arab League, and farmers gripes topped airwaves coverage

The talking heads hovered last night between heavy econ and political stories, with the top concern being the FY2018-19 budget, the debate on which formally opened at the House of Representatives yesterday.

Skimming through the highlights of the budget, Hona Al Asema’s Lamees Al Hadidi wondered whether Egyptian debt will be globally attractive with the budget expecting yields to fall to around 14.7%. She joined a number of MPs in calling for further clarification of the issue and seemed particularly keen on the 43% increase in government investment in the new budget — and asked when expected fuel subsidy cuts will come (watch, runtime: 6:11).

She delved further into the subsidy cuts with businessman Hany Tawfik who found the 19% cut on fuel subsidy spending to EGP 89 bn to be reasonable. He objected, however, to nearly halving electricity subsidies to EGP 16 bn. He expects the CBE will cut interest rates 100 bps next month, but that these would either remain stable or possibly even rise again as a result of the resulting inflation. He also called for a more efficient tax system that he said would help offset the subsidy budget. Tawfik added that continued regional instability could spook the carry trade (watch, runtime: 8:34).

Speaking of regional instability, the Arab League Summit got substantial coverage across the airwaves. The general consensus was that these were just another set of pointless meetings that achieved nothing. Both Lamees and Al Hayah Al Youm’s Khaled Abu Bakr extolled President Abdel Fattah El Sisi’s speech saying it was the “boldest” of all (watch, runtime: 56:57). Kol Youm’s Amr Adib rambled on about an “Arab Eurozone.”

Adib also zeroed in on the presence of Housing Minister Mostafa Madbouly at the summit, which he suggested either means that Madbouly was there to discuss potential development projects or that he in the running for a big political promotion (watch, runtime: 39:52). Madbouly has been touted as a potential prime minister amid expectations President Abdel Fattah El Sisi will soon announce a cabinet shuffle. On Masaa DMC, Eman Al Hossary spoke to Arab League Assistant Secretary General Hossam Zaki on how the summit addressed the developments in Syria (through the usual condemnations) (watch, runtime: 5:47).

For some reason, the issue of merging political parties is still being discussed, and of all people by Lamees (we expected this from Amr, frankly). House spokesman Salah Hassaballah through cold water on the talks, saying that there were no draft laws on this and that these are just ideas under discussion (watch, runtime: 3:46).

Local farmers are griping with the EGP 600 per ardib price for wheat set out this harvest season and have taken to the airwaves to voice their complaints. Farmer’s Syndicate head Hussein Abu Saddam called in to say the Supply Ministry’s price is “acceptable.” Supply Ministry spokesman Mamdouh Ramadan defended the decision, saying that the farmers bottom line under this price is fair and in line with the current economic and global market conditions (watch, runtime: 8:10).

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