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Sunday, 11 April 2021

Two days ‘til Ramadan; What isn’t happy the pandemic is easing? The environment.

Good morning, wonderful people, and welcome to the first week of Ramadan. The holy month should start on Tuesday: Expect Dar Al Iftaa to make a formal announcement tomorrow evening, based on its sighting of the moon.

The EGX will move to its customary shortened Ramadan hours, which will see trading begin at 10 am and end at 1:30 pm. Trading of unlisted securities on OTC orders market will take place on Mondays and Wednesdays from 11:30 am to 12 pm, while trading of unlisted securities on the OTC market will take place from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm.

The nation’s banks will open at 9.30am and close at 1.30pm through the holy month, the central bank said in a statement (pdf) yesterday. Staff will need to be in branches 30 minutes before doors open to the public and stick around 30 minutes after.

We’re still waiting for news about whether we’ll be seeing new covid restrictions brought in to prevent a spike in cases during Ramadan. Government sources told local media last week that authorities could move to close public places, ban prayer in the streets and reduce working hours at government facilities if cases continue to rise.

So, when do we eat? Maghreb prayers are at 6:21pm in the capital city on Tuesday. You’ll have until 3:59am to finish sohour that night.

IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR- Foreign affairs. The nation’s diplomats look set to own the news agenda for much of this week. Khargeya and the Defense Ministry are pushing ahead with an aggressive bid to deepen ties with upstream nations as the wrestling match with Ethiopia over GERD reaches a new pitch. We have chapter and verse on that below in the news well and in Last Night’s Talk Shows.

And it seems we’re well on our way to mending ties with Turkey. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, had a call yesterday in which the two exchanged Ramadan greetings — their first direct contact. Reuters quotes a statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry as confirming the call, but offers no further details. Officials in Ankara told Turkish media in March to tone down their criticism of Egypt in a bid to dial back tensions that date back to the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, but the two countries as yet have not resumed official diplomatic communication.

***CATCH UP QUICK on the top stories from Thursday’s edition of EnterprisePM:

  • Inflation ticked up slightly in the run-up to Ramadan, supporting expectations the CBE will leave interest rates on hold later this month.
  • The National Bank of Greece plans to close its branch network in Egypt, and has submitted a formal request to the Central Bank of Egypt.
  • Payment gateway Paymob closes USD 18.5 mn series A + Egypt was the third hottest MENA destination for VC funding in 1Q2021.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY-

Expect the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam to continue making headlines this week, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov due in town tomorrow to discuss the latest developments on the stalled talks. Lavrov’s planned trip comes after expectations that Russian President Vladimir Putin would visit Egypt sometime in March did not materialize. The latest round of ministerial negotiations between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia over the dam last week ended in yet another stalemate.

Budget week continues at the House: The House of Representatives will discuss in a plenary session the House Planning and Budgeting Committee’s customary end-of-year report on the FY2019-2020 state budget, including a review of the closing balances of individual institutions, according to the House’s schedule.

The 2021-2022 state budget is still with the Senate after earning Cabinet sign-off last month, and will then be shipped to the House of Representatives for final approval.

The House will also discuss today a USD 200 mn World Bank loan to fight pollution and the USD 500k grant offered by the African Development Bank to provide emergency assistance to impoverished people struggling due to the pandemic, according to the local press.

Today is also the final day of the Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group, which have been held virtually.

CIRCLE YOUR CALENDAR-

Amendments to the VAT Act will be shipped back to the House Planning and Budgeting Committee in a few weeks after public consultations on the amendments wrap up, committee undersecretary Mostafa Salem told us. The Finance Ministry has been sitting down with industry players, including representatives from Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Nestle for their comments on the amendments, including applying the 14% tax to the rent and purchase of commercial and administrative properties, imposing VAT on crackers and some sweets, and removing the tax on imports of strategic commodities.

Among the other deadlines and events you need to have your eye on this month:

  • EBRD President Odile Renaud-Basso could visit Egypt later this month, Al Masry Al Youm reported this weekend following a meeting with Egypt’s ambassador to the UK Tarek Adel. This would be her first official visit to Egypt since she was appointed to head the bank in November.
  • More information on the new construction licenses + building code will be made public before by 15 April to explain the details of the new system that will hand out construction licenses.
  • The Sovereign Fund of Egypt will issue the conditions booklet for the contract to develop the Mogamma El Tahrir sometime this month.
  • “Summer hours” will come into effect for retail stores and restaurants as of 17 April. This means retail shops can close at 11 pm (instead of 10 pm during the winter), while cafes and restaurants can stay open until 1 am (instead of midnight currently). We have more details on the winter vs. summer hours here.
  • The Central Bank of Egypt will meet to discuss interest rates on Thursday, 29 April.

Check out our full calendar on the web for a comprehensive listing of upcoming news events, national holidays and news triggers.

MORNING MUST READ-

Remember how the planet was “healing” when life ground to a halt last year? The rebound is going to undo much of that. The economic bounceback from covid-19 could further damage the environment, with much of the planned growth and infrastructure megaprojects planned from the US to China expected to be powered by fossil fuels, Bloomberg reports.

“The reality is that with the global population desperate for a return to economic normality, the first casualty could be the environment,” writes Karl Maier, with new roads and bridges in US President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, increased chip production in the US, and coal mining in China all expected to contribute to an increased carbon footprint, and “having it both ways isn’t an option.”

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