Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)
Tuesday,25 September, 2018
Issue 1266, (15 - 21 October 2015)

Ahram Weekly


Al-Ahram Weekly

Capital to start in January

THE FIRST phase of the construction of Egypt’s new administrative capital should be completed in two years, starting from January 2016, according to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. He announced the projected completion date at a meeting with Ibrahim Mehleb, advisor on national projects, and Minister of Housing Moustafa Madboli.

The plan to build the new capital, at an estimated cost of $45 billion, was revealed in March during the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC). During this week’s meeting, Al-Sisi called for the project to include more economic housing units.

The new capital will accommodate five million people in more than one million new housing units. It was supposed to be constructed by the UAE’s Capital City Partners (CCP), founded by Mohamed Al-Abaar, chairman of the real estate developer Emaar Group. However, disagreements about the Egyptian government’s share in the project stalled the deal, with Al-Abaar wanting to reduce the stake from the agreed 24 per cent to 20 per cent.

As a result, the China State Construction Engineering Corporation, also known as China Construction, was appointed in September to “study the building and financing” of the administrative part of the new capital.

The first phase will be built on an area of over 10,000 feddans and will include a district dedicated to the different ministries, another for financial institutions, an international medical city, a schools complex and an international university.

Moody’s downbeat on reserves

“CREDIT NEGATIVE” is how Moody’s, the international ratings agency, described the retreat in Egypt’s foreign reserves for the third month in a row. In September, foreign reserves fell to $16.33 billion, compared to $18 billion in August. The decline came despite deposits of about $6 billion from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, increasing the reserves to $20.5 billion in April.

“The drop reflects the continued dependence of Egypt’s balance of payments on external donor support, which is credit negative for the country’s external liquidity position,” said a Moody’s report. At the current level of reserves, import cover is only 2.1 months compared to the IMF-set safe level of three months.

Moody’s added that if the reserves continue falling, this will place pressure on current levels of external debt. According to Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) figures released on Monday, Egypt’s external debt increased by $2 billion during the fiscal year ending in June 2015 to reach $48.062 billion.

Moody’s also pointed out that an extended period of current account deficits, mainly due to ballooning imports, is pressuring the CBE to devalue the currency further. The CBE has let the pound depreciate by almost eight per cent so far in 2015 to reach LE7.83 to the dollar, with most investment banks expecting it to exceed LE8 before the end of this year.

Airline tickets taxed

THE TAX increase on outbound airline tickets will be within one per cent of the average value of the ticket, Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal told Aswat Masriya this week. A presidential decree last week amended Article 3 of Tax Law 46/1978 to increase the tax on an economy class air ticket by LE50 to reach LE150 and on a first class ticket by LE100, making it LE400.

Kamal stressed that the increase is on international tickets from Egypt only, and the law will not affect flights coming from abroad or domestic flights. The law also exempts students, patients travelling for medical treatment abroad, those pursuing their studies abroad or going on internships, and those going on the Hajj from the tax.

New LNG cargoes

STARTING IN November, Egypt will receive 55 cargoes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from seven international companies, according to a statement by state gas company EGAS this week.

The head of EGAS, Khaled Abdel-Badie, said that bids from seven companies were accepted out of a total of 12 for the shipping of 55 cargoes starting this November and continuing through December 2016.

The cargoes, which are ten more than originally expected, will meet much of Egypt’s near-term energy needs and will be delivered to the country’s second floating import terminal, the BW Singapore, which arrived in late September and has a capacity of 600 million to 700 million cubic feet of gas per day.

Egypt is suffering from a severe energy shortage due to a decline in the gas produced by foreign companies, causing factories to work at lower capacities and pushing the state to import gas.

Over the past year, it has agreed major LNG-import deals with European commodity trading companies, as well as with Russian and Algerian oil groups for Egypt’s first-ever LNG import terminal.

EU supports culture

THE ASSOCIATION of Upper Egypt for Education and Development (AUEED) this week launched a two-year program to bring art and culture to children and youth in Upper Egypt. The program, supported by European Union funding, worth €263,500.00, will use cultural palaces in the governorates to stage performances, organize art workshops and teach children music.

The program aims to enhance knowledge and skills through music, dance, theatre and festivals, said Ambassador James Moran, head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Youth and Ministry of Social Solidarity, AUEED plans to reach out to around one thousand children and 480 youth, said Antoun Labib CEO of AUEED.

The project plans to train 65 “cultural leaders”, including teachers and artists from five governorates in Upper Egypt: Menia, Assiut, Sohag, Qena and Luxor. It will also focus on working on the Ministry of Culture’s plan to induce cultural programmes (choir, drama, poetry, and drawing) in the schools’ curricula.

The project will also offer small grants to artistic groups participating in cultural competitions in Upper Egypt. The project further seeks to enable cultural organisations to manage and lead cultural and artistic programs within their communities.

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