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Tuesday, 12 January 2021

What we’re tracking on 12 January 2021

Happy hump day, everyone.

It’s the first day of the brand new parliament today — and the first order of business is to choose a speaker. Ali Abdel Aal faces challengers in his bid to return as speaker, as does Soliman Wahdan, who’s seeking another term as Abdel Aal’s number two. Abdel Aal’s main competitors are former president of the Supreme Constitutional Court Hanafi El Gibali and former Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ibrahim El Heneidi, according to Al Watan. Gadfly MP Mostafa Bakry and other members from Mostaqbal Watan, are vying for the deputy speaker post, El Hekaya’s Amr Adib said last night (watch, runtime: 3:33).

And about this rumored cabinet shuffle: It could come in the next 2-3 weeks, with up to 12 ministers reportedly set to leave office, Masrawy reports, quoting unnamed sources. The change in lineup is penciled in for the end of this month or early February, after the men’s Handball World Championship hosted by Egypt wraps up on 31 January, the sources claim.

Who’s likely to stay? Cabinet’s economic group, which includes Finance Minister Mohamed Maait, Trade Minister Nevine Gamea, Planning Minister Hala El Said, and International Cooperation Minister Rania Al Mashat, all of whom have gotten high marks from global institutions for their response to covid and its impact on the economy. Health Minister Hala Zayed, Education Minister Tarek Shawki, and Supply Minister Aly El Moselhy will also likely keep their positions.

Who’s headed for the exit? Environment Minister Yasmine Fouad and Culture Minister Enas Abdel Dayem (who could be succeeded by film director Khaled Galal) according to the sources. The tourism and antiquities ministry will also likely be split back into two separate portfolios current minister Khaled El Anany replaced.

MEANWHILE- Egypt is expected to have opened its airspace to Qatar just a few hours before dispatch this morning, Al Shorouk reports, quoting “high-level” sources. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Bahrain — all of whom joined us last week in signing the declaration to restore ties with the statelet — have already restored flights to Doha.

PSA- Expect warm weather today and tomorrow with daytime highs of 28°C today and 27°C tomorrow before the mercury plunges into the teens for the following two weeks.

US politics continue to dominate the international headlines after House Democrats yesterday unveiled an impeachment resolution accusing President Donald Trump of engaging in “high crimes and misdemeanors by inciting violence” against the government during last week’s invasion of the Capitol, according to CBS News. The resolution has the backing of at least 210 Dems, and states that Trump has “gravely endangered” the US government. The Associated Press has the full four-page bill.

The House is poised to begin debating the bill tomorrow — but is giving cabinet and the VP a chance to boot Agent Orange out, first. Lawmakers are attempting to pass a measure calling on VP Mike Pence and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment. The measure was blocked yesterday by House Republicans, but it’s still expected to pass in a roll call vote scheduled for today. The ultimatum as drafted would give Pence 24 hours to act. If he doesn’t, impeachment proceedings would follow.

Reminder: There’s a new administration coming on 20 January. Here’s who Joe Biden has so far tapped to sit around the cabinet table, courtesy the WSJ.

The FinMin wants small businesses to understand the benefits of going legit: The ministry has sent out letters to small firms reminding them of the tax incentives offered in the SMEs Act passed last year. The law offers preferential rates to SMEs and exempts them from having to file their accounts with the Tax Authority.

The tax brackets are follows:

  • Businesses with annual sales worth up to EGP 250k will pay a flat EGP 1k;
  • Businesses with annual sales between EGP 250k and 500k will pay EGP 2.5k in taxes;
  • Businesses with annual sales between EGP 500k and 1 m are subject to an EGP 5k tax;
  • Businesses with annual sales between EGP 1 mn and 10 mn will be taxed 0.5-1% on their revenues.

What’s happening with El Whats? WhatsApp has rolled out a privacy policy update that will share a lot more of its users’ data with other Facebook companies (primarily Facebook itself and Instagram) “to help them operate.” While the option to share data across the apps isn’t new, it will become mandatory on 8 February. The data that could be tapped includes your phonebook (with data on all your contacts), location, and certain financial information — but the contents of your chats or conversations will remain protected by end-to-end encryption for now.

Should you leave WhatsApp in your rearview mirror? Maybe? Either way, you should be more aware of how you use the messaging app.

The new policy has already prompted a wave of high-profile figures to distance themselves from WhatsApp, including Elon Musk, who tweeted last week that people should “use Signal,” while Turkish government agencies are moving their WhatsApp groups to local messaging app BiP. Signal is the brainchild of the guy who created the world-class encryption system that already backs WhatsApp — and it has seen such a massive influx of new accounts that its registration service crashed. The app has risen to the top of App Store / Google Play charts this week in markets across the world.

Signal is also the choice of most Egyptians who (like us) are debating signing up for the tinfoil hat brigade — at least if our notifications are anything to go by.

BONUS- Signal’s in-app voice calls are clear as a bell. You can check out Signal’s very pro-user privacy policy here, or read this profile of the genius behind its encryption algo, one Mr. Moxie Marlinspike, in the New Yorker).

Get Signal here: Apple’s App Store or Google Play for Android.

Oh, and if you’re going to trade the news: Make sure you get the right stock.

(Remember back in 2015 when shares of never-traded, EGX-listed Natural Gas and Mining Project popped? Investors looked at the company’s ticker — EGAS — and mistook it for state natural gas giant Egyptian Gas (EGAS), which had just announced Eni’s massive Zohr discovery.)


Is this the end of the wallet? Sales data is suggesting that people are buying fewer wallets and coin purses as “an increasingly cashless society, combined with Covid-19, raises existential questions about the accessory.” (Financial Times)

A USD is a USD is a USD. Except in our minds. The form of money—salary vs. bonus, income vs. capital—affects the way we treat that money. Sometimes that helps us financially. And sometimes it hurts us. (WSJ)

US retailers want buyers to keep the impulse purchases they regret: Amazon, Walmart and a number of other retailers have found it is more cost effective to ask consumers to keep and donate inexpensive or bulky items rather than pay shipping costs for returns, the Wall Street Journal reports.


The men’s Handball World Championship will get underway tomorrow, albeit without an audience due to covid-19. The tournament will conclude on 31 January. Egypt has allocated EGP 3.7 bn for the championship, said Sports Minister Ashraf Sobhy.

Samsung will unveil its latest Galaxy flagship, the S21 on Thursday, coinciding with the virtual-only Consumer Electronics Show, which began yesterday. Meanwhile, the new Microsoft Surface Pro 7+ for Business will be on the market soon, though only for business and education buyers at the start.

Not interested ‘cause you’re an iSheep? Try this: Apple’s next-gen iPad Mini is likely coming in March and has an 8.4-inch display and slimmer bezels.

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