What we’re tracking on 19 July 2020
Good morning, friends, and welcome to a holiday-shortened week as we all look forward to a day off on Thursday in observance of the 23 July Revolution. Two things are making us smile this morning:
SMILE #1- Cairo-based product designer and architect Youssef Ghali has won a NASA challenge to design a Venus rover that could beat the Soviet Union’s record of surviving a little over two hours on the incredibly inhospitable planet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced. You can check out his very cool Youtube video here (watch, runtime: 3:33) or go catch coverage in Syfy and Engadget. All of the winners are here on the challenge page: Exploring Hell: Avoiding obstacles on a clockwork rover.
SMILE #2- We are delighted and honoured to announce that our friends at SODIC have re-upped as pillar supporters of Enterprise. SODIC has been with us since our very first summer and have renewed their three-year advertising contract as our exclusive real estate development partners — and we couldn’t be happier. SODIC’s support, alongside that of Pharos Holding, CIB and Somabay, ensure that we’re able to keep bringing you your morning briefing without charge. SODIC had anchored our Speed Round section since 2015 and now moves to the head of the issue along with Pharos and CIB for the coming three years. Thank you, friends, for your support.
The House of Representatives gives no sign of wanting to go on recess this summer, with MPs set to give their final approval to no less than nine bills today and tomorrow, according to Al Shorouk. Among the bills business-relevant bills expected to come up: the 1% corona tax on employee wages, the Banking and Central Bank Act (with its 1% tithe on industry profits), and amendments to the Public Enterprises Act. The House of Representatives will also discuss today extending Egypt’s joint electricity grid with Libya across North Africa to Tunisia, Algeria and Mauritania, the local press reports. Deputy House Speaker Soliman Wahdan had threatened MPs back in June that their packed agenda and the coming elections for the Senate could mean MPs don’t get a break this summer.
State-run K-12 schools will be back in session on 17 October, the Education Ministry said in a statement, meaning public-school students have just been handed one of the longest summers they’ve ever had. The first term will end on 6 February, followed by a 15-day mid-year break, and the school year will wrap on 24 June 2021. The ministry still hasn’t decided the shape learning will take, but schools are likely to see some form of “blended learning” come fall. Public schools usually open somewhere around the third week of September.
Kids at private schools shouldn’t hold their breath hoping for a long break: We’re aware of three top private schools that have told parents they are sticking to their planned opening dates, with one due to head back as early as mid-August. And there’s been no word on when classes will resume at universities.
Prepare to be flooded with billboard ads of Senate candidates: The National Elections Authority has published campaigning rules for candidates running for the newly reconstituted upper house of parliament as we get ready to head to the polls on 11-12 August.
COVID-19 IN EGYPT-
GOOD NEWS- New cases in Egypt have reached a new two-month low. The Health Ministry yesterday reported 698 new infections — the lowest single-day toll since 19 May when 720 new confirmed cases were reported. Egypt has now reported a total of 87,172 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also confirmed 63 new deaths from covid-19 yesterday, bringing the country’s total death toll to 4,251. We now have a total of 27,868 cases who have fully recovered.
Prominent figures in the tourism industry are calling on the CBE to rethink its tourism support program. The EGP 50 bn initiative, which hands out soft loans to support companies in the sector, requires recipients to allocate 85% of the funding they receive to paying salaries and wages and the remaining 15% to funding other operating expenses. Some in the industry are asking the central bank to allow them more flexibility with how they spend the money, complaining that 15% is insufficient to cover maintenance and utilities and is preventing many companies from reopening, Al Shorouk reports.
Egyptian tour operators and others in the sector are struggling to collect USD 1 bn in receivables from offshore travel companies, according to estimates by the Federation of Tourism Chambers, Al Shorouk reports.
Some 3k companies are caught up in the unprecedented crisis, which deepened for many in the industry after Saudi Arabia took the unprecedented step of cancelling the Umrah and Hajj pilgrimage trips, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association.
Meanwhile, some 31 hotels across six governorates received health certificates last week that allow them to reopen their doors. The operators are in the Red Sea, South Sinai, Luxor, Greater Cairo, Matrouh and Suez governorates.
ON THE GLOBAL FRONT-
WHO says uptick in cases, limited data in EastMed are cause for concern: The covid-19 pandemic in the Eastern Mediterranean region remains alarming — and unreliable data makes it hard to say just how bad things are, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement. “Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq [reported] almost 70% of all cases,” it noted. Even with underreporting, deaths in the region are (outside of Egypt) on an upward trajectory, increasing by 13% last week alone. The total case tally jumped by nearly 10% in the same period, the statement notes added.
G20 finance officials vow more support for global economy… G20 finance ministers and central bankers pledged to keep deploying “all available policy tools” to support the global economy against the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reports. In a statement following a virtual meeting yesterday, the officials said that the world would recover from the economic shock as countries reopened but said more support was needed to protect jobs, ensure financial stability and hedge against further risks caused by the virus.
…but refused to extend the debt freeze for poorest countries into next year: The G20 have called on bilateral creditors to the world’s poorest countries to freeze debt repayments for only the second half 2020, despite sources claiming strong support for extending it into next year, Reuters said. The statement also didn’t acknowledge calls for full debt cancellation for low-income countries, rather than the current “debt standstill.” Agreed by the G20 in April, the debt service suspension initiative has struggled to make an impact, with less than 60% of eligible countries showing interest and a failure by the private sector to participate.
AND THE REST OF THE WORLD-
Facebook says goodbye to its biggest advertiser after Disney joins ad boycott. Disney has taken an axe to its advertising spending on Facebook, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing people familiar with the matter. Disney was Facebook’s largest advertiser for the first six months of the year, making its decision a particularly large setback for the social media giant. Some of the world’s largest companies — including Coca-Cola, Ford, Unilever and Starbucks — responded to calls for a boycott of Facebook earlier this month over its policies for handling hate speech and political content.