What we’re tracking on 18 August 2020
Welcome to the final workday of this abbreviated workweek. We hope you’ve all made plans for the long weekend — ideally ones that involve a modicum of social distancing?
The House of Representatives isn’t going on summer recess just yet: House Speaker Ali Abdel Aal adjourned parliament’s plenary sessions yesterday until next Sunday, 23 August. Parliament had a three-day legislative marathon this week as it pushed through a host of bills, which we had taken as the prelude to its summer recess. We have chapter and verse on yesterday’s legislative session in this morning’s Speed Round, below.
We’re getting the results of last week’s Senate elections today: National Elections Authority chief Lasheen Ibrahim is expected to announce the results of the vote later today. Runoffs are scheduled for 8-9 September in any districts where the results are inconclusive. Voters are electing 200 members to the newly reconstituted upper house of parliament, while the presidency will nominate another 100 members.
PSA- Stranger Things hasn’t resumed filming yet, but we now know there will be at least one season beyond the upcoming fourth installation, according to this Hollywood Reporter interview with showrunners the Duffer brothers. The interview is part of the outlet’s coverage in the run-up to the Emmys.
** We’re not publishing tomorrow in observance of the national holiday, but we’ll be back in your inboxes (and on the web) at the usual time on Sunday morning.
The Health Ministry reported 163 new covid-19 infections yesterday, up from 115 the day before. Egypt has now disclosed a total of 96,753 confirmed cases of covid-19. The ministry also reported 11 new deaths, bringing the country’s total death toll to 5,184. We now have a total of 61,652 confirmed cases that have fully recovered.
The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce wants to standardize maximum business hours for retail outlets. A proposal currently with cabinet would see most stores allowed to open weekdays from 5am-11pm, while unspecified outlets whose activities are particularly noisy would not be permitted to open before 8am, the local press reports. Closing hours would extend to midnight on Thursdays and Fridays; all stores would need to close by 10pm in winter (please don’t ask us to sort through the logic there).
Red Sea hotel occupancy rates are still below the 50% cap set by the gov’t: Hotel occupancy in Hurghada is currently at 30-40%, making it the top performer in the country despite still falling short of the 50% capacity limit the government imposed as part of its covid-19 safety measures, Red Sea Tourism Investment Association Chairman Kamel Abou Aly told Reuters. Sharm El Sheikh lags behind with a 20-25% occupancy rate, which is still inching up as domestic tourists flock to the coastal city during the summer, Egyptian Hotel Association Board Member Hisham El Shaer said. Occupancy rates during the first half of the year averaged at 53% in Hurghada and 51% in Sharm.
FURTHER AFIELD- Renewed covid-19 outbreaks in some European countries are kneecapping their economic recovery, according to data measured by Bloomberg Economics. Italy, France and Spain saw a fall in activity in the first half of August, while the recovery in Germany, Sweden and Norway continued to be “sluggish.”
Joe Biden is officially the Democrats’ nominee for November’s US presidential election as the second night of the Dems’ virtual national convention comes to an end. Among the many speakers last night were former president Bill Clinton (addressing a party that has “left him behind,” but laying out a “stark choice” for voters) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (making the case for progressive change). The convention continues through Thursday, when Biden is set to accept the nomination. The NYT liveblogged last night’s festivities, Politico has wall-to-wall coverage and you can visit the convention’s official website for more.
The S&P 500 closed at its highest level ever yesterday, erasing its corona-induced losses and “capping a remarkable rebound fueled by unprecedented government stimulus and optimism among investors about the world’s ability to manage the coronavirus pandemic,” the WSJ reports.
The latest worry over whether the US is losing its edge as the world’s reserve currency: Russia’s rising EUR inflows from its exports to China in 1Q2020, coupled with wide-reaching EU stimulus measures, are fueling the thus-far “historically unconsummated concern” that the USD’s standing as the world’s reserve currency is uncertain, Dion Rabouin writes for Axios. The moment of strength for the EUR is also coinciding with a “moment of weakness” for the US, with the hegemon facing the world’s most severe covid-19 outbreak and the Federal Reserve expanding its balance sheet by the tns.
*** It’s Hardhat day — your weekly briefing of all things infrastructure in Egypt: Enterprise’s industry vertical focuses each Wednesday on infrastructure, covering everything from energy, water, transportation, urban development and as well as social infrastructure such as health and education.
In today’s issue: In part 2 of our series on why Egypt is still experiencing brownouts despite a large surplus in energy generation capacity, we look at how the smart grid can help stop power cuts and improve energy efficiency