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Monday, 7 May 2018

IMF Deputy MD on Egypt

The airwaves last night focused on one of the busiest days in parliament we’ve seen in a very long time. Debates on the Ride-hailing Apps Act and the new education system moved from the floor of the House of Representatives to the airwaves without any dilution of the drama. The highlight of the night, however, was Hona Al Asema’s interview with IMF Deputy Managing Director David Lipton, who’s in town for the IMF and CBE’s “Inclusive Growth and Job Creation” conference.

Want to kill unemployment? Open up further to the private sector: Lipton’s message in the interview reflected his speech on day one of the conference, which is that embarking on policies friendly to the private sector and a more liberalized economy would do wonders for inclusive growth in Egypt. He also called for the government to continue to focus on exports-centric policies.

Speaking on the reform agenda, Lipton naturally sung the praises of the program, saying that Egypt would have been far worse if it had not adopted the tough measures. He said that the conference itself took place to highlight and recognize these accomplishments. He reassured host Lamees Al Hadidi that the impact of the reforms would trickle down if the government continues on the path of fiscal restructuring.

Long-term, Lipton sees it very possible for Egypt’s GDP grow at a sustained 6-8%.

On Egypt’s unemployment rate, Lipton says that the country has managed to bring that figure down to the emerging markets average. He credits the government’s financial inclusion policies with absorbing some of the informal economy’s work force.

As for the USD 12 bn IMF Extended Fund Facility, he made sure to tell Lamees that the first payment is due in 2021.

You can catch the full interview here (watch, runtime: 51:55)

Back to the House drama, and with it, the debate on controversial articles of the Ride-Hailing Apps Act. MP Ahmed Al Sharqawy was on Hona Al Asema to call out the articles that require Uber and Careem to store user data in Egypt and open it to the government, describing the requirements as unconstitutional (watch, runtime: 3:56). On the flipside, MP Mohamed Zein Aldin argued in favour of making the data accessible to authorities, claiming that foreign governments have access to user’s social media data (watch, runtime: 5:50). The man appears to not have heard of Snowden or Cambridge Analytica… Kol Youm’s Amr Adib, being the consummate intellectual on modern topics, appears to back Zein Aldin up. He did play devil’s advocate by calling for a balance between protecting people’s privacy and ensuring national security to be reached (watch, runtime: 2:18).

Next up, MPs really went off on Education Minister Tarek Shawky and his plan to reform the education system. Their main gripe appears to be that they were not consulted on the strategy and no “national dialogue” was made. Lamees jumped in to the minister’s defence and urged parliament to give him a chance and to hear him out instead of attacking him (watch, runtime: 3:22). Kol Youm’s Amr Adib also defended the new strategy as better than system currently in place, voicing frustration with the tumultuous way in which the discussions were held (watch, runtime: 10:26). Yahduth fi Masr’s Sherif Amer backed up Adib’s comments on the conduct of MPs (watch, runtime: 3:30).

Shawky himself called in on Hona Al Asema (watch, runtime: 9:17) and Yahduth fi Masr (watch, runtime: 9:59) to tell his side after the battering, blaming the whole fiasco on a lack of understanding by MPs.

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