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Sunday, 5 July 2020

What we’re tracking on 5 June 2020

Good morning, friends. We hope all of you enjoyed the long weekend as much as we did. Only 18 days until your next three-day break: The anniversary of the 23 July Revolution — which is followed a week later by Eid Al Adha, suggesting that two-week period will be the true dog days of summer. Plan your escapes while the planning’s good, folks.

We’re heading to the polls in August and September for Senate elections: The first elections for the newly reconstituted Senate will be held on 11-12 August, with Egyptians abroad voting on 9-10 August, the head of the National Elections Authority Lasheen Ibrahim announced in a televised press conference yesterday (watch, runtime: 18:05). The results will be published in the Official Gazette on August 19. Run-offs will be held 8-9 September, with expats voting 6-7 September. The nominations period runs July 11-18. The Associated Press and Reuters both took note of the story.

The nation’s 300 senators will have five-year terms in office, with one-third elected on a list system, one third running as individuals and the remaining 100 appointed by the presidency. Ten percent of seats are reserved for women.

Expect to go back to the polls yet again toward the end of the year to elect the next House of Representatives. The current House — due to head on summer break any time now — will reconvene a final time this fall for a truncated session.

The Senate election was called two days after President Abdel Fattah El Sisi ratified a handful of laws regulating general elections — including a law on parliamentary elections and another to bring back the Senate as the country’s upper house of parliament.

Another busy day in the House ahead of summer recess: The Planning and Budgeting Committee will continue discussing the Unified Tax Act, the Arab Affairs Committee will discuss the charter to set up the Council of Arab African States (which will oversee maritime laws for nations along the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden), and an agreement with the Canadian government regarding the economic empowerment of women, the local press reports. Ahram Online has an expanded rundown on what you can expect from the House today through Tuesday.

GERD talks continue today, mediated by the African Union. There were no breakthroughs yesterday.

The government’s fuel pricing committee is set to meet in “a matter of days” to determine gas prices for the next three months, according to Hapi Journal. The committee cut prices on all grades of gasoline by 0.25 EGP at its last meeting in April.

News triggers coming up over the next few days:

  • The purchasing managers’ index for June is due to land tomorrow morning.
  • Foreign reserves figures for June should be out sometime this week.
  • Inflation data for June will land Thursday, 9 July.

A record number of our readers now seem to be taking three-day weekends, judging from “out-of-office” replies we’re getting on Thursdays and Sundays — good on you. While you’re on a break, consider:

A workout for your brain: Is there such a thing as inclusive capitalism? Martin Sandblu at the Financial Times is out with The everyone economy: how to make capitalism work for all, arguing that “after four decades of rising inequality, the Covid crisis is a chance to change the rules.”

A workout for your body: The NYT’s inimitable Jane Brody has something for everyone — whether you’ve packed on the kgs during covid or you’ve physically become one with the couch since March. Whether you’re on WFH, heading to Sahel or waiting to see whether it’s safe to head to the club, read The Well summer workout challenge and get moving.


The Health Ministry confirmed 79 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 3,280. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 74,035 confirmed cases of covid-19, after the ministry reported 1,324 new infections yesterday. We now have a total of 20,103 cases who have fully recovered.

Airports have been busy since the resumption of regularly scheduled commercial flights last week: Flights from countries including the UK, Italy, Belgium, and Lebanon carrying thousands of tourists and nationals landed in Cairo International Airport on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Charter flights from Ukraine, Belarus, and Luxembourg landed in Hurghada yesterday, reports Youm7. On Thursday, tourists from Switzerland, Belarus, and Ukraine arrived in Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada, according to a cabinet statement. The Madbouly Cabinet decided to reopen Egypt’s airspace as of Thursday after nearly four months.

Inbound EgyptAir flights are flying at more than 90% capacity, while 70-75% of seats are booked for outgoing flights, the national flag carrier’s chairman Roshdy Zakaria said on Wednesday (watch, runtime: 07:20).

China’s aviation authority has suspended Sichuan Airlines’ Cairo-Chengdu route for a week starting 6 July, after six passengers arriving from Egypt tested positive for covid-19, reports Reuters.

Egypt could lose out on more than 3% of its GDP — equivalent to USD 7.7 bn — if international tourism remains at a standstill for four months, according to a report (pdf) from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). This is the most optimistic scenario put forward by the UN body: Under the ‘intermediate’ scenario where tourism dries up for eight months, Egypt would lose around 6% of GDP (USD 15.3 bn) while in the doomsday scenario that tourism is suspended for an entire year the Egyptian economy would lose 9% (USD 22.9 bn).

Even in the most optimistic scenario, the global figures are staggering: The report says the global tourism industry stands to lose at least USD 1.2 tn — equivalent to 1.5% of global GDP — after a four-month pause in tourism activity. These losses could increase to USD 2.2 tn (2.8% of global GDP) if international tourism remains on hold for eight months.

Al-Hussein Mosque near Khan El Khalili has been closed until further notice after worshipers failed to abide health and safety guidelines during prayers, according to an Awqaf Ministry statement.

The Egyptian Drug Authority will permit pharmacos to export provided the needs of the domestic market are met for the coming six months, according to a cabinet statement. Spokesman Ali El Ghamrawy said companies exported EGP 30 mn of products during March and April, a 10% increase compared to the same period last year.


Star striker and newly-crowned Premier League champ Mohamed Salah has donated GBP 30k to build an ambulance station in Nagrig, his native village in Gharbia, according to the Daily Mail.



Globally, the pandemic continues to accelerate:

  • Global single-day infections at record high: A record 212,326 cases were reported globally in a single day yesterday, according to WHO figures (pdf).
  • Total confirmed cases surpassed 11 mn on Friday, just five days after hitting the 10 mn mark, Johns Hopkins data showed.
  • The US again posted a new record of more than 55k cases on Thursday as the outbreaks in Florida, Texas, California and Arizona continue to intensify. Another 45k cases were reported on Saturday.
  • India reported a record number of daily infections yesterday at more than 22k.

UAE residents and citizens are now allowed to resume international travel, according to state news agency WAM. All local and international airlines “will operate their flights according to a classification system, based on several health and safety standards.”



Investors to start pushing for answers as companies continue to keep quiet on guidance: US stocks have just delivered their best quarter in more than two decades despite the coming earnings season shaping up to be historic in its awfulness. Just how awful, we’re not quite sure as the vast majority of companies have refused to provide earnings guidance over the past three months. Maintaining the current rally — which has seen the S&P 500 surge 24% over the past three months, adding USD 10 tn in share value — might soon require companies to be more up-front with their earnings guidance for the remainder of the year. “Investors are going to start demanding a little bit more clarity — whether it’s good or bad, they just want to know,” said David Lebovitz, a strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management.

The emerging market debt market is expected to continue to perform in the second half of the year as worries of an oversupply of issuers have eased after Ukraine called off a USD 1.75 bn debt issuance following the resignation of a senior official, reports Reuters. Still, “the [debt] market is still concerned about the fundamentals and the outlook for some of the riskier names,” with Egypt’s recent issuance not turning out a stellar performance and issuances from Belarus and Albania trending sideways since launch, a pundit on the fixed-income emerging markets desk at Vanguard is quoted as saying.

The recovery many had penciled in for the US economy in 3Q2020 is looking more unlikely as the reopening of several states appears to have been premature and unsustainable, Allianz economic advisor Mohamed El Erian writes for Bloomberg Opinion. The risk the economy runs now is that short-term issues become “structurally embedded” as several relief measures and packages set to expire soon while the fallout from the pandemic has yet to be reversed. “The answer is not to roll back health measures aimed at regaining control of what is a worrisome acceleration of infections. Rather, it is to ensure changes in behavior and policy that allow for healthier and sustainable economic reopenings during this tricky period,” El Erian says.

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