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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Ride-Hailing Apps Act passes the House; Lipton, El Garhy, Amer show off Egypt’s reforms

The talking heads had plenty to keep them busy last night with parliament signing off on the Ride-Hailing Apps Act, the details of which we cover extensively in the Speed Round below. But the star show of night was Amr Adib’s roundtable with IMF Deputy Managing Director David Lipton, CBE Governor Tarek Amer, and Finance Minister Amr El Garhy. President Abdel Fattah El Sisi had met with Lipton yesterday to discuss progress on the government’s reforms and the steps that lie ahead, according to an Ittihadiya statement.

The central bank retains the ability to intervene in the FX market if it sees rates fluctuating outside “acceptable” ranges, CBE Governor Amer said. The CBE hasn’t made a move on this yet to allow the market to become accustomed to seeing rates oscillating (watch, runtime: 3:20). The governor quelled Adib’s concerns about Egypt’s borrowing, saying that the increase in foreign reserves outweighs the increase in loans the country has taken on, and that we are comfortably able to meet our debt obligations due to the diverse maturities and interest rates of Egypt’s debt instruments (watch, runtime: 3:00).

Amer fiercely defended the decision to float the EGP in 2016, pointing to the various sectors and aspects of citizens’ lives that were harmed by pre-float conditions, including heavy-duty factories whose utilization rates dropped to as low as 10%. Amer also noted that the float was necessary to meet Egypt’s debt obligations and pay arrears to IOCs, without which companies such as Italy’s Eni would not have returned to the country — and Zohr may have remained undiscovered (watch, runtime: 3:47). The international credibility Egypt earned through its reform program also paved the way for the successful eurobond issuances, Amer said (watch, runtime: 4:04).

The IMF’s David Lipton sang the praises of Egypt’s reform program and the strides the economy has taken over the past year and a half, saying that the economy was “very close to the danger zone” in 2016 prior to the implementation of reform (watch, runtime: 1:15). He reiterated his call for the government to double down on creating jobs, removing obstacles for exports and imports, and allowing the private sector to flourish (watch, runtime: 7:00).

While reforms have brought economic hardships, many fail to consider how the economy would be faring had these reforms not been implemented, Finance Minister Amr El Garhy said. He reminded viewers of how Egypt’s trade and budget deficits both skyrocketed over the past few years, and pointed to the significantly reduced current account deficit and improved balance of payments as evidence the reforms are bearing fruit (watch, runtime: 5:25).

Articles 9 and 10 of the Ride-Hailing Apps Act managed to squeeze their way through Parliament’s final vote on the legislation after significant controversy, MP Mohamed Zeineldin told Hona Al Asema’s Lamees Al Hadidi. Despite a previous Council of State ruling saying otherwise, Zeineldin claims the House of Representatives (legal experts that they are) found that the articles are entirely constitutional (watch, runtime: 7:32).

The passing of the legislation will allow small companies to compete in the ride-sharing industry and will help to attract new investments, Investment Ministry senior adviser Shehab Marzban told Lamees (watch, runtime: 8:00).

In other legislative news, the Local Administration Act is a “top priority” for the House of Representatives, which is currently deliberating the law, Local Development Minister Abu Bakr El Gendy told Yahduth fi Masr’s Sherif Amer (watch, runtime: 8:00).

Amr Adib seems to be using his last few days on air to beat the drum on the urgency of Egypt’s water situation. He pointed to the status of trilateral talks between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which is near completion, saying that Egypt is now in a tight spot. We have updates on the talks in Diplomacy + Foreign Trade, below (watch, runtime: 3:35).

Meanwhile, Consumer Protection Agency head Atef Yacoub lashed out against telecom companies in a phone-in to Al Hayah Al Youm, saying that his agency has received complaints over these companies’ service quality and high prices. If he’s referring to TE Data’s dodgy WiFi connections, we’re with Smileyface on this one.

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