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Monday, 11 May 2020

What we’re tracking on 11 May 2020

It’s a big news day at home and abroad as we grind through the days until Eid El Fitr starts at the end of next week.

On the home front:

MUST READ OF THE DAY- The always-on-point Mohamed El Erian on how think about a post-covid world is our Spotlight this morning as we report on his lecture to Nile University. The story appears immediately after this morning’s Speed Round.

Egypt looks set to get approval on USD 2.7 bn from the IMF when the institution’s executive board meets later today. The Sisi administration has asked for a USD 2.7 bn rapid financing instrument and another, unspecified sum in the form of a stand-by arrangement. Only the RFI is on the table at the IMF board’s meeting today.

The administration is sending a clear message that both new austerity measures and a lockdown are on the table as Egypt levels-up in its fight against covid-19.

AUSTERITY: The state is committed to increased spending on health and welfare, but could cut spending in other areas (and, presumably, reconsider taxes?) if the covid-induced revenue shortfall extends into the new fiscal year, Ittihadiya said in a statement after a sit-down between President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly and Finance Minister Mohamed Maait. We have the full rundown in this morning’s Speed Round, below.

LOCKDOWN: The Medical Syndicate is lobbying the government to go into a full lockdown until the end of Ramadan, the syndicate’s Cairo president, Sherine Ghaleb, tells Al Shorouk. The syndicate sees the holy month as Egypt’s “last chance” to use a lockdown to curb the spread of the virus, saying doing it at the tail end of Ramadan would have the least impact on the economy. All options are on the table, including a 24-hour curfew, presidential health advisor and former health minister Mohamed Awad Tageldin said on television last night (watch, runtime: 8:29).

The news comes as the Madbouly government is actively taking the pulse this week of top business leaders on how to reopen the economy after Eid while still containing the spread of covid-19. Cabinet is set to make an announcement by the end of next week on what restrictions will remain in place after the holiday. The consultations come as some in the business community are calling for bailout funding to be made available to companies in the service sector. The government’s stimulus spending has so far prioritized the tourism industry, manufacturers and exporters.

It’s interest rate week, and 10 of the 12 analysts in our regular poll expect the central bank to leave rates on hold when its monetary policy committee meets this coming Thursday. The poll leads this morning’s Speed Round, below.

You need to put on a face mask if you’re heading to CIB today after the bank took the (eminently sensible) step of making it mandatory for clients visiting its branches to wear masks starting yesterday, CIB said on its website. State-owned Banque Misr said it will follow suit starting Sunday, 17 May.

Why are masks so important? They protect the people around you, as the Philadelphia public health office put it in terms that should be immediately understandable to anyone who’s ever been peed on by an infant on a changing table.

So, when do we eat? Maghrib prayers are at 6:39pm and you’ll have until 3:25am to finish caffeinating. Fajr is coming one minute earlier every day through the end of the Holy Month.

TAKE OUR POLL- How is covid-19 impacting your business? We do an annual reader poll asking what you expect of business conditions and the economy in the year ahead. Covid-19 has us thinking that the results of this year’s survey need updating. Take a minute and tell us how covid-19 has impacted your business, whether it’s changed your outlook on the economy, and what you think of WFH. You can take the survey here.


There’s plenty of competition for your attention on the global front this morning:

Policymakers are worried that we’re looking at a second wave of infections. A spike in cases in Germany and new clusters in China and South Korea were reported yesterday in a demonstration of the difficult road ahead for governments trying to loosen lockdown restrictions without fuelling a second wave of infections. The FT and the Guardian have more.

Across the pond: The US administration is reportedly mulling another round of coronavirus aid amid fears that as many as one in five Americans could soon find themselves jobless.

The coronavirus is working its way through the White House, the New York Times reports, but Vice President Mike Pence is not going into self-isolation despite earlier stories suggesting he would do so.

Closer to home: Saudi Arabia is axing its cost-of-living allowance and will triple its VAT as it scrambles to respond to both covid-19 and the collapse of oil prices in the wake of its price war with Russia. “The cost of living allowance will be suspended as of June first, and the value added tax will be increased to 15% from 5% as of July first,” Reuters quotes Saudi’s state news agency as saying.

Dubai is looking at a long recovery from covid-19 as the economic fallout hits at the heart of its economy as the sectors that underpinned its growth strengths — aviation, shipping, real estate — have been exposed as vulnerable by the pandemic. Officials may have to resort to a program of damage control involving a mass labor exodus, bailouts and a series of restructurings, the Financial Times argues.



Egypt has now disclosed a total of 9,400 confirmed cases of covid-19 after the Health Ministry reported 436 new infections yesterday. The ministry also said that another 11 people had died from the virus, taking the death toll to 525. We now have a total of 2,556 confirmed cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 2,075 have fully recovered.

Even with the pandemic, Egypt’s total deaths in April are apparently 2.8% lower than they were during the same month last year, dipping to 42.1k from 43.3k in 2019, according to the cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center.

Thirty-eight medical personnel at the Al Azhar-affiliated Al Zahra University Hospital have been infected with covid-19, Al Azhar University Vice President Mahmoud Sedik told Sada El Balad (watch, runtime 5:29).


*** It’s Blackboard day: We have our weekly look at the business of education in Egypt, from pre-K through the highest reaches of higher ed. Blackboard appears every Monday in Enterprise in the place of our traditional industry news roundups.

In today’s issue: What shape could back-to-school take in the fall? As the debate on whether we should ease the lockdown on schools next academic year intensifies, Egypt’s private schools explain to us why they prefer a hybrid of online and classroom work.

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