El Sisi attends fifth national youth conference in Cairo
GDP growth for 3Q2017-18 accelerated to 5.4% President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said at his fifth national youth conference yesterday. Economic conditions are improving, but challenges including a bloated public sector persist, El Sisi said. Nonetheless, the state does not plan on laying off civil servants. He urged businesses to continue investing at home, saying that delaying on investments will only slow the recovery and make the burden heavier for everyone. The president said he expects living conditions to improve within two years as the state’s projects begin to bear fruit, according to Al Shorouk.
All businesses that legalize their status and enter the formal economy will be exempt from paying taxes for five years, El Sisi also vowed yesterday, Al Mal reports. Businesses choosing to go legit will enjoy other incentives including simplified access to social insurance. El Sisi did not offer further details on these plans. The Finance Ministry had been planning to offer SMEs of a certain size full or partial tax exemptions to enter the formal economy as part of the SME Act, but has reportedly been moving towards a different proposal that would set a flat tax for SMEs based on the size of their top line, Tax Authority sources had told us earlier this month.
In the meantime, there’s no stopping reforms. Among the top priorities for the government right now is supporting domestic industry to create jobs and cut down on Egypt’s import bill, El Sisi said. The overhaul of the educational system will also move ahead and is necessary to prepare the next generation Egyptians entering the labor force, he said.
The president admitted that the government has failed to curb population growth, according to Al Shorouk. El Sisi stressed that high population growth will have an adverse effect on economic growth and make it harder to raise the standard of living for everyone. His economic reform program, he said, will not be as effective if population growth is not contained. With that in mind, Egypt needs to grow its economy 7.5% per annum to lift living standards, the president said, according to Bloomberg.
The president touched on other economic and social issues during the conference, including the recent decision to hike prices on the Cairo Metro, which he said was a difficult but necessary move to keep the trains running, Al Masry Al Youm reports. The price hikes are part of a “four-year plan across all sectors, water, electricity, and sewage,” El Sisi said, according to Reuters.
On the political front, El Sisi said that more time is needed for Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan to reach an understanding over the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Reuters reports. He has invited Ethiopian Prime MInister Abiy Ahmed to visit Egypt for further talks. The president also discussed the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem, which he said will have negative repercussions on the region, the newswire says. El Sisi stopped short of publicly criticizing the US for its embassy move, and instead urged Israel to be more understanding of Palestinians’ outrage over the issue.
El Sisi also ordered the release of over 330 youth prisoners yesterday ahead of Ramadan, Ahram Gate reports.