What we’re tracking on 17 January 2021
Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to another Sunday. We’re settling in for a couple of weeks in which the news agenda is going to be dominated by government policy as well as bills wending their way through the House of Representatives. Throw in the local press’ favourite parlour game (“Who’s sticking around in a cabinet shuffle?”) and that should take us through to the end of month and into early February.
What to watch for: The prime minister’s now-traditional address to the House on his government’s legislative priorities. MPs were sworn in last week and have their committee assignments. They’re working through largely procedural stuff now (see Cabinet Watch, below), with the real heavy lifting likely to come only after the PM”s address — itself potentially contingent on a cabinet shuffle. Gadfly journalist and MP Mostafa Bakry floated last week his theory on the likely shuffle, which Masrawy later reported should see the cabinet economic group staying in place.
We have a brand new set of committees in the House: The MPs heading up the House committees were appointed on Thursday, paving the way for legislative activity to get up and running.
So, who’s quarterbacking the government’s agenda in the House? Committee chairs relevant to business include:
- Economic Committee: Ahmed Samir (deputy head of the Sixth of October Investors Association, returning)
- Industry Committee: Moataz Mohamed Mahmoud (former head of the Housing Committee)
- Planning and Budgeting Committee: Fakhry El Fiqi (former IMF advisor and CBE board member, new);
- Transport and Communications Committee Alaa Abed (former chair of the Human Rights Committee, new)
- Education Committee Sami Hashem (returning)
- Housing and Utilities Committee Emad Saad Hammouda (returning)
- Tourism and Civil Aviation Committee Nora Ali (former president of the Federation of Tourism Chambers)
- Constitutional and Legislative Affairs Committee Ibrahim El Heneidi (former legal and parliamentary affairs minister, new)
- Health Affairs Committee Ashraf Hatem (former health minister, new)
Some committees started meeting yesterday and many will convene today to start structuring their legislative agendas. Look for the National Defense Committee to start chewing over amendments to the Traffic Act, Masrawy reported without going into detail.
PSA- We’re looking at wind with a good chance of a sand storm today — and the possibility of a shower this afternoon in the capital city. Look for a daytime high of 19°C and an overnight low of 9°C as we settle in for two weeks of cool weather, according to our favourite weather app.
MEANWHILE- Businesses have until 31 January to file their wage tax returns for 2020, Egyptian Tax Authority head Reda Abdel Qader said in a statement (pdf). Companies will have to file two separate tax returns: One covering the old income tax bands during 1H2020, and one for 2H2020 when the exemption threshold was raised to EGP 9k and a new top rate was introduced for those earning EGP 400k or more.
REMINDER- Are you a sole trader? Do you have income from outside where you hang your hat during daytime hours? You need to file your taxes electronically this year just like businesses do. Don’t sweat it if you have a day job with a company: Salaried employees in Egypt do not file income tax returns, but have income taxes deducted at source by their employer, which is responsible for remitting the wage taxes to the state.
Banks are being instructed to give their clients a rundown on tourism support initiatives to allow more businesses to benefit, the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) said in a circular last week. The central bank has provided the tourism sector with discounted loans and debt repayment holidays as a way to support the industry through the pandemic.
Russia will increase the frequency of flights between Cairo and Moscow to five per week, Ahram Gate reported yesterday, citing Russian media. The report didn’t disclose when the new flight schedule would begin.
GLOBAL NEWS you need to know-
It’s inauguration week in the US of A: Security is tight in Washington, DC, and many state capitals ahead of the Wednesday inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. Agent Orange will disappear from DC prior to the 12 noon Eastern time ceremony. Look for Biden to sign about a dozen executive orders on his first day in office as he promises “10 days of action” on “four overlapping and compounding crises” including the pandemic, the economy, climate change and racial equality.
Appointments to watch: Journalist turned activist and diplomat Samantha Power is set to become the head of USAID, while Gary Gensler — a regulator who the Wall Street Journal calls “an old foe of banks” — is apparently in line to become head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Want more on this and the mega-stimulus Biden will announce? Go read the very solid Biden seeks quick start with executive actions and aggressive legislation in the NYT.
WhatsApp has delayed a planned update to its privacy terms to 15 May from 8 February to give users more time to review the new terms, the company said in a blog post, after the announcement of the changes earlier this month caused a furor that sent users scrambling to rival messaging apps like Signal.
iSheep, that sound is your wallet weeping: Apple is studying the possibility of a folding iPhone (not this year), is bringing back MagSafe for updated MacBook Pros as it plans to give them new Apple Silicon processors (this year) and a new look, and is going to roll out its first redesign of the iMac in a decade (also this year).
MARKET WATCH- The US’ main stock indices were in the red on Friday: Energy stocks sold off amid a regulatory probe into Exxon Mobil, while investors exited banks despite reporting better-than-expected earnings, reports Reuters. The S&P 500 closed the day down 0.7%, while the Dow Jones lost 0.6% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 0.9%.
CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-
The Cairo Center for African Studies is hosting a webinar on the economic impact of covid-19 and policy responses in Africa on Tuesday, 19 January. Speaking at the event are World Bank Country Director for Egypt, Yemen, and Djibouti Marina Wes, IMF Senior Representative in Egypt Said Bakhache, and Institute of International Economic Finance Deputy Chief Economist Elina Ribakova. You can check out the flyer and register for the webinar here (pdf).
The 2021 Men’s Handball World Championship continues today: Egypt’s final group game will be played against Sweden tomorrow at 19:00. The Pharaohs qualified for the main round of the competition after yesterday beating North Macedonia 38-19. This followed a 35-29 victory over Chile in the opening game of the tournament last Wednesday.
Our next long weekend is in less than two work weeks. The nation is expected to take Thursday, 28 January as a holiday in observance of Police / Revolution Day, which falls on Monday, 25 January.
We then settle in for our long holiday drought: Your next day off will be mid-Ramadan. The Holy Month should start on or about Monday, 13 April.
Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.