Week in Brief – April 15, 2018 – April 21, 2018

04/23/2018 . By TIMEP

Summary

  • Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy presented the official state budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year to the House of Representatives. The budget is the largest in Egypt’s history, exceeding 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($62.4 billion); the Budget Committee in parliament is expected to begin deliberating the different components of the bill starting May 5.
  • Representatives intensified discussions regarding political party consolidation, as an anonymous source within the Coalition in Support of Egypt stated that the bloc intends to amend the constitution at a later date to reclassify itself as an official political party, though members of the coalition were hesitant to discuss this initiative.

Notable Developments

Representatives Begin Budget Discussions:

After weeks of preliminary discussions regarding the state budget, Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy presented the official budget for the 2018–19 fiscal year to the House of Representatives. The budget is the largest in Egypt’s history, totaling 1.1 trillion Egyptian pounds ($62.4 billion). The Budget Committee in parliament is expected to begin debating the bill for the upcoming fiscal year beginning May 5. Meanwhile, the committee completed its review of the 2016–17 budget and expects to finish its final reports of the assessment early next week.

Party Consolidation Talks Intensify:

Talks of political party consolidation intensified in parliament, as representatives and party leadership offered varying perspectives on the merging process. The political bureau of the Coalition in Support of Egypt held multiple meetings this week to debate officially reclassifying as a recognized party, though some members of the bloc rejected this notion. Coalition Chairman Muhammad al-Suweidi ordered the creation of a subcommittee to investigate the legal framework of reorganizing as an official political party. Similarly, an anonymous source within the coalition leadership described the bloc’s intentions to amend the constitution and parliamentary bylaws during the next session of parliament in October in order to permit the coalition to form a political party. In related news, parliamentary spokesman Salah Hassiballah dismissed rumors that a bill exists in the House to alter the structure of political parties.

Abdel ‘Al Threatens Representatives over Poor Attendance:

Following a role call vote to approve legislation, Speaker of the House Ali Abdel ‘Al criticized representatives for their abysmal attendance during Tuesday’s plenary session. He threatened to pursue legal action and levy fines against parliamentarians for failing to adhere to their obligations in the House, as well as publicizing the names of those individuals who did not attend Tuesday’s session. In a contradictory turn of events, Abdel ‘Al requested that a representative submit an amendment to the legislature’s bylaws to eliminate role call vote after asserting that this process of voting is overly time-consuming and inefficient.

Other Developments

In Legislation:

The House of Representatives approved the Diplomatic Corps Law in its entirety during plenary session Tuesday after previously agreeing to it in principle on April 16. The bill will designate a monthly pension of 80–90 percent of the ending salary for retired cabinet members, speakers of the House, and foreign diplomats. The legislation does not include an increase to the current salary of these aforementioned officials.

The House approved the amendments to the Consumer Protection Law during general session Tuesday, which were previously agreed upon in principle Monday. The legislation will allow the Consumer Protection Agency to reconcile financially with perpetrators of the law, as well as consolidate e-commerce activity under government regulation.

The House approved the Food Cart Regulation Law and sent it to the State Council for review. The law codifies food cart activities and provides additional regulations for individual owners of these businesses.

The House approved amendments to the Income Tax Law, which will grant citizens a 60-day grace period after tax declaration forms are submitted to the Tax Authority in order to submit the additional required documents.

The Constitutional Affairs Committee approved amendments to the State-Owned Private Property Law. The amendment provides for specific registration periods of state-owned land for private property.

The Social Solidarity Committee discussed the Orphans and Abandoned Children draft law. The proposed legislation would create an independent body to promote the interests of marginalized children and provide for their care.

In Session:

Tharwat Sawaylem of the Youth Committee submitted a request to Abdel ‘Al and Prime Minister Sherif Ismail to assist in the ongoing rice crisis in the Sharqia governorate, which prompted Abdel ‘Al to assert that parliament would coordinate with local leaders to solve the cultivation issue.

The Local Administration Committee began a three-day field visit under Chairman Ahmed al-Sageeni’s leadership to assess infrastructure projects in the Aswan governorate. The delegation has visited the construction site of the Benban solar plant, as well as the Aswan High Dam.

Muhammad Zayn al-Din of the Transportation Committee asked the Ministry of Agriculture to reconsider its decision not to raise the supply prices of wheat based on the outrage of farmers nationwide.

Parliament’s internal radio advised all staff and employees within the legislature to refrain from conducting interviews with members of the media unless given permission.

Abdel ‘Al met with Italian Ambassador to Egypt Giampaolo Cantini, and the two individuals discussed bilateral relations as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean.

After the House  decided against lifting the immunity of Representative Mortada Mansour, Abdel ‘Al called on Mansour to reconsider his actions. Mansour, who is chairman of Zamalek Club, had been accused of financial impropriety with the club, and the attorney-general and members of parliament had repeatedly requested that Mansour’s immunity be lifted.

Ahmed Farouk of the Local Administration Committee announced a hunger strike on behalf of his constituents in al-Qanater for what he believed entailed the government’s neglect of the needs of the region’s citizens, which led to Abdel ‘Al mocking Farouk for his behavior being inappropriate for a member of parliament.

The House issued a collective statement expressing their condolences for the members of the armed forces who were killed in an Islamic State (Wilayat Sinai) attack in central Sinai last weekend, adding that these individuals gave their lives on behalf of the state.

Fayez Barakat of the Education Committee submitted a request to Abdel ‘Al and Education Minister Tariq Shawky to investigate the rising issue of drugs in schools.

In News and Statements:

Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tariq Radwan traveled to Germany and met with several prominent officials within the government, including Minister of Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas and German Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Norbert Röttgen. During his meetings, Radwan discussed topics including German investments in Egypt, parliamentary relations between the two countries, and regional security concerns in the Middle East.

The Nation’s Future Party condemned the bombing of Syria earlier this month, based on what they deemed to be a rejection of international law. The party also affirmed its adherence to the Egyptian state policy on the Syrian crisis, which involves the peaceful resolution of the conflict through negotiations.

Mustafa al-Gindi of the African Affairs Committee began his campaign for the position of speaker in the African Parliament by meeting with officials from Nigeria. Elections for the post will be held May 9 in South Africa.

Tadrus Qaldus of the Communications Committee warned of the current threat that Facebook represents as a national security concern, while adding that parliament will soon issue a draft law establishing an Egyptian platform similar to Facebook.

Looking Ahead

  • The next general session of parliament will be held Sunday, April 22.
  • The Health Committee will send a delegation to the Red Sea governorate following requests by several representatives for briefings detailing poor conditions in local hospitals.
  • The Agriculture Committee will meet with Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, Supply Minister Khaled Hanafy, and Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed to discuss the increase in wheat prices.