Egypt Media Roundup – Mar 10, 2014

03/10/2014 . By TIMEP

TOP STORIES

Legal & Political Institutions

Egypt’s powerful military chief launched a $40 billion housing initiative Sunday to build a million homes in cooperation with a major Emirati construction firm, the first campaign-style move by Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is widely expected to run for president. The statement said the million homes are dedicated to “Egypt’s youth” and are a first step to solve the country’s housing problem. [Washington Post, Ahram] Read More..

Security Sector

Egyptian students started on Saturday going back to their classes after a longer-than-usual mid-year vacation, overshadowed by the country’s political and security turmoil.

Police patrols were seen roaming streets near schools in the Egyptian capital as the military-backed government has vowed to deal firmly with any attempt to disrupt the educational process. Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education Wael El-Degwy stated on Monday that police will not enter campuses unless requested to by university presidents, assuring that only administrative security guards will be stationed inside. [Gulf News, AhramRead More..

Marginalized Groups

Mostafa Hashem writes, “The military-backed regime in Egypt was committing the same mistake of previous regimes in not making more than a superficial effort to listen to youth activists. Youth are losing their faith in the political process, and their participation rates are plunging. If future governments do not learn from the mistakes of Mubarak and Morsi, they will likewise be vulnerable, should youth movements decide to put aside their internal political divisions and reunite in street protests.” [Carnegie Endowment] Read More..

Rights & Freedoms

Videotaped testimonies of prisoners currently held in Egyptian jails are painting a picture of arbitrary arrest, torture, forced confessions and cramped prison cells. The videos – recorded on mobile phones, smuggled out of prison and obtained by journalists – were the first to show current detainees giving an account of prison conditions from within their cells. [Al Jazeera, Telegraph] Read More..

Economy

Egypt, which has been cutting back on natural gas supplies to cement factories, said on Monday it would permit cement companies to use coal for energy. The government hopes to forestall an energy crisis this summer and the likelihood of sustained gas shortages in the coming years. [Thomson Reuters Foundation, Maktoob News] Read More.. 

Foreign Relations

The United Arab Emirates-based construction giant Arabtec has agreed to build a million homes across Egypt worth a combined $40 billion, the most dramatic example yet of a Gulf Arab oil exporter’s using its financial might to advance political interests in the country during a time of great uncertainty. [Wall Street JournalRead More..

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Legal & Political Institutions

Mahmoud Salem addresses the realities of Egypt’s future if Sisi were president

Al Monitor: A Sisi presidency will not work

Summary: “The problems Egypt faces in the next few years are insurmountable, and the widely held belief among many in the Egyptian population that the Gulf will continue to bail us out and will open the money floodgates once Sisi becomes president seems like a delusional pipe dream, once one does the math. The new government is already expected to fail, given that they are facing bad economic conditions, alongside huge corruption and no political will to reform how the government functions. With foreign reserves dwindling, we no longer have any safety nets, and the waste we have in government due to our exceptional corruption is simply unsustainable. The Sisi believers don’t care about any of this, talking about him in messianic fervor, with expectations so high that they dwarf those of the most enthusiastic Obama fanatic circa 2008. Once Sisi becomes president, their prayer says, he will make the government run right, and will deliver us from all of our problems.”

Analysts from all sides debate the constitutionality of the new election law

Aswat Masriya: Egypt: Constitutional Experts and Politicians – Election Law Is Flawed

Summary: Several constitutional experts, politicians, and rights activists have criticised the presidential election law that was approved by Interim President Adli Mansour on Saturday.

President Mansour has ratified the presidential election law in preparation for the upcoming presidential race, said Ali Awad, presidential advisor for constitutional affairs.

Nour Farahat, a constitutional expert, told ON TV that immunizing the decisions of the Supreme Elections Committee in the election law is clearly unconstitutional.

Farahat urged Mansour to commit to article 79 of the constitution which prohibits immunity to any resolutions from judicial oversight.

Immunizing the elections committee’s resolutions is a constitutional flaw since this is incompatible with the articles of the constitution, said Magdi al-Garhi, deputy head of the State Council. The presidency’s justifications of the election committee’s immunization are flimsy and could have been avoided, Garhi told CBC channel.

He pointed that the State Council’s legislative body has recommended not immunizing the election committee and offered alternatives to appeal its decisions.

The law should have included an article stating that the sons of a presidential candidate cannot hold any nationality other than Egyptian, said Ahmed Refaat, law professor and former President of Bani Soueif University. Refaat said that there should be a way to appeal the committee’s decisions before the administrative court to ensure fair results.

Ayman Nour, head of the Ghad Party, expressed his rejection of the law and said it “clashes with solid constitution principles”.Nour said on Twitter that he will challenge the constitutionality of the presidential election law.

Preventing detainees from running for president contradicts the legal premise that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, said Hafez Abu Seada, the National Council for Human Rights. If this rule is applied, the president can prevent his opponents from contesting the presidential elections by detaining and charging them, Abu Seada added.

Security Sector

Bombing at a Cairo tram station wounds one person

Al Jazeera: Egypt metro station blast injures passerby

Global Post: Cairo tram station bomb hurts one person

Summary: A suspected homemade bomb at a tram station in eastern Cairo has wounded at least one person, while explosives experts succeeded in detonating another two bombs at the site before they exploded.

State-run Ahram Gate newspaper reported on Saturday that two improvised explosive devises were found at al-Marghani metro station by guards, when one took off injuring a passer-by. No deaths were reported.

Egypt president issues defense decrees: 1) creation of National Security Council, 2) amendment of armed forces command and control law

Ahram: Analysis: New laws reorganise Egypt’s security affairs

Summary: Interim President Adly Mansour issued two pieces of legislation related to defense issues in recent weeks. The first created a new body, the National Security Council (NSC), and the second amended the law pertaining to the line-of-command of defence affairs and the organisation of the armed forces.

The presidential decrees are generally said to be consistent with the new constitution, which was approved by public referendum at the outset of the year.

The first law calls for the creation of a National Security Council headed by the president of the republic and consisting of the prime minister, the speaker of parliament, the chief of the General Intelligence Services (GIS), the chairman of the parliamentary defence and national security committee, and the ministers of defence, the interior, foreign affairs, finance, justice, health, communications and education.

The second law adds four articles to the armed forces command and control law in order to bring it into line with the articles pertaining to the armed forces in the new constitution. Under the amendments, the minister of defence is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He must be an officer who has served in the armed forces at the rank of general for at least five years and in one of the key military posts.

Marginalized Groups

Heavy rains in Egypt causing infrastructure problems for low-cost housing communities, electricity cut-outs

Daily News Egypt: Heavy showers strain Egypt’s infrastructure

Ahram: Storms lash Egypt, expected to continue until Thursday

Ahram: Heavy rain damages homes in Egypt’s ‘Paris Oasis’

Summary: Inclement weather conditions in Egypt have caused deadly accidents and building collapses, leaving some areas of the country flooded.

After the residents of three villages in the Governorate of Assiut were forced to evacuate their homes due to flooding on Sunday evening, the governor said those affected will receive adequate compensation. Many of them reportedly lost property, livestock, harvest and several homes have been damaged, state-run MENA reported.

Further south, in the Governorate of Aswan, rain left the corniche area and several main roads completely flooded. On Monday morning, several streets in Cairo and Giza were heavily congested due to the collection of water, especially in tunnels and the on-ramps of bridges.  State-run Al-Ahram reported that 50 schools were closed on Monday. Several schools in Upper Egypt will also remain closed on Tuesday until classrooms are emptied of rainwater.

Under these weather conditions, at least 17 people died in two separate accidents over the past few days. The death toll resulting from a tourist bus flipping over in the Red Sea governorate en route to Hurghada has risen to nine. Dozens of passengers were injured as a result.

In another incident on Saturday evening in the Upper Egypt governorate of Minya, eight people died when the microbus they were in flipped over and fell into a canal after hitting a road bump during the rain.

Rights & Freedoms

Three protesters killed, 47 arrested, and 48 wounded in Muslim Brotherhood clashes with police

Reuters: Three killed in Cairo clashes, 48 wounded across Egypt

Ahram: Three killed in Egypt as violence flares at Islamist rallies

Daily Times: 3 killed in Cairo clashes, 48 wounded across Egypt

Turkish Press: 8 pro-democracy protesters reportedly shot dead in Egypt

News24: Violent clashes flare up in Egypt

Turkish Press: Egypt’s pro-democracy protesters stage fresh rallies

Al Jazeera: Egypt demonstrations turn deadly

AFP: Three killed in Egypt clashes

Summary: Three protesters were killed and dozens wounded as Muslim Brotherhood supporters and police clashed across Egypt on Friday, the health ministry and security sources said.

Security sources said two were killed in street battles with the police in the Cairo district of Alf Maskin and a third in the capital’s Abbaseya. Protesters fired weapons and hurled petrol bombs at police who responded with tear gas, they said.

The Interior Ministry said it had arrested 47 people it said were Brotherhood members during the violence, which broke out after Friday prayers.

Four policemen suffered wounds from birdshot in the port city of Suez, it said. The health ministry said 48 people were wounded nationwide.

Police cars were burned by protesters in at least two Cairo districts.

Tilburg University study finds rampant trafficking in Sinai–25,000-30,000 victims since 2009

Think Africa Press: Egypt: ‘It’s Not a Place You Go to Die, but a Place You Go to Suffer’ – Torture and Trafficking in Sinai

Summary: According to a study published by Tilburg University in December 2013, 25,000 to 30,000 people have been victims of trafficking in Sinai since 2009, of whom 5,000-10,000 have lost their lives. People become victims of traffickers in two main ways. Many are refugees – often from Eritrea – who pay smugglers to transport them across the Sinai peninsula to the Israeli border, while others like Eyob are simply kidnapped from refugee camps or elsewhere. Either way, these individuals are taken hostage and held for ransoms worth tens of thousands of dollars. It is estimated that since 2009, human trafficking networks in Sinai have generated over $600 million. The smugglers are typically either from the Rashaida or Hidarib tribe who pass on their hostages to Bedouin cells in the largely lawless deserts of the Sinai peninsula. Stories of these practices have been increasing since around 2009, when it appears criminal networks started move from smuggling humans towards kidnapping them. More often than not it seems, those held hostage are tortured while they await their fate too.

Economy

Egypt inflation slows down to 9.8%

Al Arabiya: Egypt’s urban inflation slows to 9.8% in Feb.

Summary: Egypt’s annual urban inflation rate slowed to 9.8 percent in February from 11.4 percent in January, the official statistics agency CAPMAS said on Monday.

Annual inflation reached its highest rate in nearly four years in November but has been falling since then, easing for the third straight month in February.

Egypt’s economy has been buffeted by investment outflows and a drop in tourism due to political turmoil since autocrat President Hosni Mubarak was toppled in an uprising in 2011.

Despite inflows of billions of dollars in aid from Gulf Arab states after the army’s ouster last July of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi, economic recovery has been limited.

Shanta Devarajan and Tara Vishwanath write: Higher minimum wage in Egypt may lead to formal sector job losses, but expand informal sector

Mada Masr: Is higher minimum wage the solution?

Summary: The recent article in Mada Masr on Egypt’s new public-sector minimum wage “falling short” makes the right point — that it will exacerbate inequality — but gives the wrong reason for why this is the case. The problem is not that the new minimum wage is “not applied on the national level or across sectors.” The reason for the shortcomings lie in that nearly three out of four Egyptian workers are small farmers, self- employed or work in the informal sector. Those workers will not benefit from any increase in the minimum wage, whether it is restricted to the public sector or not.

About 41 percent of those in the informal sector earn less than the old minimum wage of LE700, and 75 percent earn less than the new minimum wage of LE1,200. The government has just increased the wages of those who are already earning more than about half the workforce. To be sure, public sector workers are also better paid than those in the formal private sector. One estimate, from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS), puts the average public-sector wage at LE2,600, while the average in the formal private sector is LE1,600.

More importantly from the perspective of “social justice,” the effect of the minimum-wage increase will be to squeeze the formal private sector and expand the informal sector. The formal private sector and public sector draw from the same pool of workers. With an increased minimum wage — even if it was only applied to the public sector — the formal private sector will have to pay a higher salary to attract workers, making it more difficult to compete in world markets. As a result, the private sector will continue to deformalize, as it did when Egypt froze public sector hiring in 2003.

Finally, if the higher minimum wage is extended to the private sector, it will lead to formal-sector job losses. Large firms with high profit margins, with workers who are paid close to the new minimum wage, can absorb the increase without shedding labor. But 95 percent of Egyptian firms employ less than 10 workers, many of whom are paid considerably less than LE1,200.

Egypt dropped to frontier market status as Tourism sector launches “We Miss You” campaign

Mada Masr: Economy in a week: Egypt reclassified as frontier market

Summary: After a three-year review, Russell’s Annual Index reclassified Egypt’s status from an emerging to a frontier market. And yet Sherif Sami, chairman of the Financial Supervisory Authority (EFSA), refuted the downgrade, claiming it was irrelevant. Egypt meanwhile launched its “We Miss You” tourism campaign shortly after recording the lowest quarterly tourism revenue in over 10 years.

Foreign Relations

Egypt-Saudi further strengthen ties with Saudi’s designation of Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organization

IBTimes: Egypt Backs Saudi Arabia’s Branding of Muslim Brotherhood as Terrorists

Summary: The Egyptian Government has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to classify the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, and called on other Muslim countries to follow suit.

The Saudi decision to blacklist the Brotherhood further isolates the party of the deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

Saudi Arabia hailed Morsi’s overthrow and pledged billions of dollars to Egypt’s military-installed interim government. The Saudi-Egyptian agreement has been ratified by 18 of the Arab League’s 22 members.

Egypt had already designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group following a suicide bombing that killed 15 people in a police station in December.

Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said: “We welcome the Saudi decision … which shows the depth of cooperation and solidarity between the two countries.”

China designates $24.4million grant for development projects in Egypt

Ahram: China provides Egypt with $24.4m grant

Egypt SIS: China offers 25-million-dollar grant to Egypt’s development projects

Summary: The government Sunday signed an economic and technical agreement with the Chinese government, to access a $24.4m non-refundable grant to fund development projects for the second year, according to a statement from Ministry of International Cooperation.

The agreement was signed during a meeting between Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Ashraf El-Araby and Chinese Ambassador Song Aiguo.

For three years starting in 2013, China agreed to give Egypt CNY 150m ($24.4m)  to support social and economic projects, according to the statement.