Economic issues reign supreme as Council of State approves sovereign wealth fund legislation
Legislation establishing the EGP 200 bn sovereign wealth fund led the discussion on the airwaves last night after the Council of State signed off on the law. We have the full story in Speed Round, below.
The House of Representatives’ Economic Committee will begin its review of the legislation as soon as the Council of State ships it over, MP Medhat El Sherif told Lama Gebril, who filled in for Lamees Al Hadidi on Hona Al Asema. El Sherif explained to the host that sovereign wealth funds are used to manage states’ budgetary surplus, which is directed towards investment both at home and abroad. He noted that there is a range of untapped assets under the state’s ownership, and that this umbrella will only increase when government buildings relocate to the new administrative capital (watch, runtime: 5:12).
The EGP 200 bn fund has drawn interest from the UAE and Oman, both of whom have signaled their intention to invest a portion of their finances in the fund, finance industry insider Osama Mourad told Gebril. Mourad also stressed that the fund would not nullify the Public Enterprises Ministry and said that state assets will likely be divided among the two entities (watch, runtime: 8:00).
The government is also working in the meantime to rein in Egypt’s debt levels, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait reiterated in a call-in to Yahduth fi Masr. While the public debt to GDP ratio had peaked at 108% in FY2016-17, it was brought down to below 98% by the end of FY2017-18 as the country’s debt was contained and GDP grew, Maait said. He reminded host Sherif Amer of the government’s target of pushing the figure to below 80% by FY2020-2021, stressing that we will refrain from taking on new debts unless absolutely necessary (watch, runtime: 10:00).
Egypt is checking off the technical and legislative requirements on the to-do list for becoming a regional energy hub, Oil Ministry spokesman Hamdy Abdel Aziz told Al Hayah fi Masr after the natural gas market regulatory authority agreed yesterday to begin issuing licenses (full story in Speed Round). The ministry has also devised a strategy to increase domestic production of natural gas, which would rely on issuing international tenders and encouraging foreign investment in the sector, according to Abdel Aziz (watch, runtime: 5:43).
Meanwhile, the Supreme Media Council decided to issue a gag order on the investigation into the 57357 children’s hospital, council head Makram Mohamed Ahmed told Masaa DMC’s Osama Kamal. Ahmed justified the move as necessary to preserve the hospital’s reputation throughout the process of investigating allegations of graft (watch, runtime: 12:58).
Elsewhere on the airwaves last night: Some 2.6 mn Egyptians are born each year, National Population Council Rapporteur Atef Al Shetani told Al Hayah fi Masr’s Nahawand Serry to drive home the point that population growth must be contained (watch, runtime: 14:37).