What we’re tracking on 21 June 2020
…and we’re back from our mental health day. We enjoyed an impromptu long weekend and hope you’ll also consider giving your team members the flexibility to choose a day off sometime soon — the whole idea being that we are not so much “working from home” as we are “at home, during the middle of a pandemic, working.”
It’s shaping up to be a very busy news week. The central bank will meet on Thursday to decide on interest rates. Nine of the 10 analysts and economists we surveyed expect rates to be left on hold for the third straight meeting after an historic 300-bps rate cut in response to the pandemic. We have the details in this morning’s Speed Round, below.
The IMF’s executive board will meet on Friday to discuss Egypt’s request for a USD 5.2 bn standby facility, according to the fund’s calendar. If approved, the loan would be paid out in several tranches in 2021, Jihad Azour, director of the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia department, said in an interview with Ahram Online.
Talks with Ethiopia over GERD have broken down and Egypt is asking for the UN Security Council to intervene at the same time as President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said Egypt may have to intervene in Libya. Spare a thought for the nation’s diplomats this morning — their week is going to be more hectic than yours. We have more below.
Thanaweya Amma exams start today nationwide for some 650k students. The Health Ministry has put measures in place to ensure students are not in danger of contracting the virus while testing in person.
It’s a big week for: iSheep, who will be looking forward to iOS14 and the rumored announcement of ARM-based Macs at Apple’s WWDC, which takes place this year amid a high-profile spat over the tech giant’s share of revenues from apps sold in its App Store. You can watch the opening keynote of WWDC live here tomorrow at 7pm CLT or head over to the Verge for a rundown of what to expect.
PSA- A thank you to the nice people in the BLM movement over in Amreeka, whose pressure has prompted Johnson & Johnson announce it will stop selling skin bleaches designed to help people eradicate the very skin tone that others spend all summer hoping to emulate. Now, if Unilever would only follow suit with “Fair & Lovely”…
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
The Health Ministry confirmed 89 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 2,106. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 53,758 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,547 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 15,779 confirmed cases that have since tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized or isolated, of whom 14,327 have fully recovered.
The number of new cases hit a record high on Friday as the ministry reported 1,774 new infections.
The Health Ministry has new authority to enforce the mandatory wearing of face masks in public: The House of Representatives’ general assembly approved on Wednesday amendments to the Infectious Diseases Act that give the Health Ministry the authority to require citizens to wear face masks or other protective gear in public spaces. The changes also give the ministry a mandate to set procedures for the burial of victims of any infectious diseases, according to Youm7. The fine for not wearing a mask ranges from EGP 300-5k, while the fine for not complying with burial safety measures is EGP 5k-10k, or more if violence is involved.
Prepare to arrive at the airport 4.5 hours ahead of your next international flight: EgyptAir has advised travelers boarding international flights to arrive at the airport 4.5 hours ahead of time, while those boarding domestic flights are advised to arrive 2.5 hours before departure. The national flag carrier also said that airports will be disinfected every three hours once flights resume on 1 July. All airport and flight crew will be wearing protective gear, face masks are required at all times inside of the airport, and only travellers are allowed inside terminals (watch, runtime: 01:52).
Inbound tourists will now need to have valid medical insurance before arriving in Egypt under new Tourism Ministry regulations, according to the local press.
The World Travel and Tourism Council has designated Egypt a safe and hygienic travel destination following its review of the country’s health and hygiene protocols as Egypt gears up to welcome tourists back to the Red Sea, Matrouh, and South Sinai next month, according to a cabinet statement.
Italian and Ukrainian tourists are eager to return to Egypt, Moataz Sedky, a member of the Egyptian Travel Agents Association and the general manager of Travco Holidays, told Extra News (watch, runtime: 05:49).
The Trade and Industry Ministry has extended an export ban on surgical masks and rubbing alcohol for three months. The export bans were first put into place in March to ensure there is enough supply to meet local demand during the outbreak.
Information Minister Osama Heikal is self-isolating at home after coming in contact with a covid-19 case, according to Youm7. Last week, Housing Minister Assem El Gazzar also began self-isolating for the same reason.
MP proposes offering low-interest EGP-denominated bonds to support those impacted by the outbreak, according to Al-Mal. The house economic committee member proposed that a fund be set up to back the bond offering to help produce an additional revenue stream for people unable to work while Egypt is still in the throes of the pandemic.
The government has launched an employment initiative for returnees dubbed “Nawart Baladak” (You Light Up Your Home), according to a Planning Ministry statement (pdf).
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
We are entering a “new and dangerous phase” in the pandemic as record-high cases swept the Americas and the virus’ spread accelerated in the Middle East and South Asia, the WHO boss Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said over the weekend.
Saudi Arabia is lifting its curfew and allowing the resumption of all commercial activities, but is leaving in place the suspension of international flights and umrah for the moment. The kingdom is yet to make an announcement about whether this year’s hajj will go ahead.
EGYPT BEYOND COVID-
Individual taxpayers will have to file their taxes electronically as of January 2021, according to a Finance Ministry decree. A recent amendment to the Income Tax Act made it mandatory for companies to file their tax returns online this year. Individuals will follow suit starting 1 January 2021. Most Egyptians and foreign residents pay taxes through payroll taxes deducted at source; individuals who file themselves are self-employed professionals including lawyers, doctors and consultants as well as people who generate income through part-time work outside their day job or folks with income from assets including real estate rents.
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-
It’s shaping up to be another nutty week in America, where covid-19 cases spiked to their highest level since 1 May and a smaller-than-expected crowd showed up in Tulsa for the first rally of the pandemic by King Cheeto. The Donald said he will announce new visa restrictions this week and has fired the US attorney who had been most-focused on investigating allegations of wrongdoing in his administration — oh, and he failed to block the publication this week of a tell-all book by former advisor John Bolton.
Mexico has nominated Jesús Seade as the next chief of the World Trade Organization (WTO), according to a statement (pdf) from the Mexican embassy in Cairo. Seade, the organization’s deputy chief, is also Mexico's ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and held positions at the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. Egypt’s Abdel Hamid Mamdouh is also in the running for the position. Nominations are open until 8 July and a new director-general is to be named before Roberto Azevêdo steps down on 31 August. You can see the full list of candidates here.