What we’re tracking on 06 May 2018
Is the US congress really planning to put conditions on the release of USD 290 mn in aid to Egypt? US Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on Senate’s spending committee, is stipulating that Egypt help pay medical bills for a US tourist who was injured in the 2015 accidental bombing of tourists in the Western Desert as a condition on the USD 290 mn of withheld aid to Egypt, officials from Leahy’s office tell Al Monitor. Leahy is also demanding a “transparent investigation” into Italian PhD student Giulio Regeni’s abduction and murder in Egypt, the pardoning of 43 NGO workers convicted in 2013, and the dismissal of the controversial NGOs law. Egypt has until September to abide by the conditions before the aid expires, the website suggests.
Tell us again about this “Arab force” you want us to contribute to in Syria? Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abou Zaid downplayed statements made last week by Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry that implied regional states were considering US President Donald Trump’s proposal to form an Arab military force that would cover America’s withdrawal from Syria. Abou Zaid said the minister’s statement in no way implied that there was a possibility that Egypt might take part in the force, adding that the move won’t happen unless it was in line with constitutional mechanisms.
The next step in Egypt’s economic reforms should be to advance more inclusive growth, said IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton yesterday. “Many countries have escaped financial jeopardy and achieved a measure of macro-stability. But a smaller number have sustained that stabilization and gone on to complete a modernization driving sustained, inclusive growth. Egypt now is at the point where it has a chance to do so. That will require broadening and deepening the reform agenda,” he said in a speech. “We have come to Cairo to participate in a forward-looking conversation about those next steps — to ask what can be done to create greater opportunities for all Egyptians.”
Lipton’s statement comes ahead of a IMF and CBE conference today on inclusive economic growth and job creation. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail CBE Governor Tarek Amer, and Finance Minister Amr El Garhy are all expected to speak at the conference.
The conference is taking place as an IMF delegation is town to conduct the third review of the economic reform agenda, which will unlock a USD 2 bn tranche of the USD 12 bn IMF Extended Fund Facility. The delegation is here until 17 May and the Fund is expected to disburse the tranche sometime in June or July.
Lipton will also give a lecture titled “The Egyptian Economy: Growth and Job Creation” at the American University in Cairo tomorrow. The event is organized by AUC’s School of Business and will take place at the New Cairo campus. Tap or click here for more details (pdf).
LEGISLATION WATCH- Will the Ride-hailing Apps Act get its plenary vote in Parliament today? MP Mohamed Badawy was on the airwaves last night stating that the House of Representatives will hold its critical vote on the Ride-hailing apps today. The law would set a legal framework for Uber and Careem. We have more on his comments in Last Night’s Talk Shows.
Speaking of which — Uber / Careem appeal this Saturday: The Supreme Administrative Court is scheduled to hear on Saturday, 12 May an appeal by Uber and Careem of a lower court decision that ordered the two companies to suspend operations, Al Mal reports. The two companies continue to operate under a Court of Urgent Matters ruling that stayed the initial suspension.
Also worth a moment of your time this morning:
You think we have high interest rates? They’re at 40% in Argentina.Our favourite South American country has hiked interest rates by 6.75 points, its third such hike in less than a week “in an increasingly desperate attempt to halt the country’s peso from sliding further against the USD.” The question, the FT writes, is whether Argentina is “a bellwether for emerging markets that have benefited hugely from years of loose US monetary policy now coming to an end” or an exceptional case. It’s prompted the FT’s John Authers to openly ask “Do we have another emerging markets crisis on our hands,” coming as it does as cross-border flows into EM bonds and equities came to a sudden stop in April.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway held its annual meeting yesterday, and the so-called Oracle of Omaha reassured shareholders that the conglomerate would remain “the buyer of choice” for companies even after he shrugs off this mortal coil. See wall-to-wall coverage in the Financial Times, Reuters (here, here and here), Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and CNBC. The takeaways: Berkshire turned in a net loss this quarter because of a change in accounting rules that are going to produce “wild” but meaningless swings in results, Buffett says; its operating profit is up nicely; and he really likes Apple’s USD 100 bn share buyback.
Goldman Sachs has decided it’s going to trade bitcoin, likely the first such trading operation at a Wall Street bank.
It’s election day in Lebanon as voters choose a new parliament, casting ballots for the first time in nine years against a background with “many” crises, including “a mn Syrian refugees are straining public services; a shaky economy is increasingly teetering; garbage is piling up; fear is spreading of a new war between Hezbollah and Israel; and the political class has failed to find solutions.”
Turkey has found its Moussa Whatshisname Moussa in the form of a former high school principal who will challenge Erdogan in next month’s presidential election after being tapped by the country’s biggest opposition party.
** Communications tip for CEOs: That microphone is ALWAYS on, so don’t start singing “we’re in the money” when you’re announcing your merger, as J Sainsbury boss Mike Coupe did while waiting to be interviewed on TV to discuss his GBP 10 bn lash-up with Asda. Eyes and ears open, mouth shut, ladies and gents, when a mic or a camera is pointed in your direction.
** How to survive your 40s, by the New York Times’ inimitable Pamela Druckerman, is required reading for all this morning, whether you’re in your 30s, your 40s or have already passed through that decade. The olds among us nodded along with damn near every sentence she wrote.
Speaking of olds: Alice in Chains has its first new song out in something like five years. It’s not half bad.
PSA- Look for cloudy, somewhat cooler weather with a chance of rain and dust today in the capital city, with the mercury peaking at 28°C in Cairo, according to our favourite weather app. The national weather service is warning Upper Egypt could see high temps, winds and blowing dust today. Look for a two-day heat wave Thursday and Friday, with highs of 40°C.