Egypt’s parliament to discuss public enterprise, sovereign fund Sunday

Egypt’s parliament will meet on Sunday to resume discussions on the amendments to the Public Enterprise Law 203/1991. The amendments, approved in principle on 18 May, will see a lot of divisions among MPs when their articles are put up for discussion today.

MPs in the Economic Affairs Committee approved the law and support the amendments drafted by Minister of Public Enterprise Hisham Tawfik, while MPs in the Labour Force Committee warn the amendments aim to disrupt the industrial public sector and abuse the rights of workers.

Mohamed Wahba, a member of the Labour Committee and deputy chairman of the General Egyptian Federation of Trade Unions (GEFTU), believes Tawfik, a former businessman and a stockbroker, is using the law to liquidate the public sector in favour of the private sector and monopolising the local industrial market.

In response, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal defended Tawfik, arguing that reform of the public sector reflects a long-term state policy.

The discussion is expected to feature a number of points. Topping the list is Article 38 which states that a company incurring losses that exceed half its capital shall be liquidated. This, said head of the Labour Committee Gibali El-Maraghi, would push 40 percent of public sector companies into liquidation and consequently harm workers.

The House’s schedule of debate also includes discussing amendments to nine articles of the law regulating the Egypt Sovereign Fund (177/2018). In general, thee amendments aim to change the name of the law to become Egypt’s Sovereign Fund for Investment and Development.

A parliamentary report said the amendments also aim to introduce new methods – such as hiring international expertise houses – for evaluating the fund’s assets. “The amendments also regulate the process of transferring the ownership of the Egypt Sovereign Fund’s assets, and exempt the fund’s internal deals of all kinds of taxes and fees,” said the report.

Parliament is also expected to discuss amendments to three articles in the law regulating the Military Technical Academy (93/1975) and the law regulating the military’s Faculty of Medicine. In general, the amendments aim to give students who are not physically fit and who for this reason are dismissed from the Military Technical Academy and the military’s Faculty of Medicine the right to join faculties of engineering and medicine.

The debate also includes discussing amendments to two articles in the law on the Fund of Sponsoring Innovative and Genius Individuals (1/2019). The amendments aim to deduct 10 pounds from each university student’s expenses to be directed to the fund to help it perform activities, starting from the school year 2019/20.

MPs are also expected to discuss amendments to 15 articles in the law regulating advertisement on roads. The changes aim to set up “the National Council for Regulating Advertisements” to write up the rules regulating advertisements on public roads.

Parliament is also expected to discuss a law drafted by Zaki El-Sewedy, independent MP and head of the Federation of Egyptian Industries, on the criteria necessary to join the commercial register.

Discussions will include two laws which license the minister of petroleum to contract two foreign companies to explore for oil in the Mediterranean Sea and the Nile Delta.

Parliament is also expected to discuss six international agreements covering different sectors: the investment climate, intellectual property rights, Cairo’s underground metro, railway authority, Alexandria’s sanitary drainage system, and the choice of Cairo to be the headquarters of the Confederation of the African Football (CAF).

Parliament is scheduled to give a final vote on six laws on the Registration and Central Depository, the Egyptian Railway Authority, the Car Parking Areas, the Prevention of Infectious Diseases, the Performance of the Police Academy, and School Missions and Grants.

Parliament’s Secretary-General Mahmoud Fawzi said the House has taken several strict anti-coronavirus measures ahead of the plenary meetings on Sunday. “The House’s main building and meeting halls will be sanitised and MPs will be urged to observe social distancing to ensure that meetings are held in a safe and virus-free environment,” said Fawzi.

As many as nine MPs contracted the coronavirus in the last two weeks. One MP fully recovered and left the hospital, and the others are exhibiting mild symptoms.