Thursday,15 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)
Thursday,15 November, 2018
Issue 1402, (19 - 25 July 2018)

Ahram Weekly

A legislative tsunami

Al-Ahram Weekly reviews this week’s barrage of new legislation covering education, granting Egyptian nationality and honouring military commanders

 

A legislative tsunami
A legislative tsunami

Before adjourning for their summer recess next week MPs approved a host of economic and political laws, reports Gamal Essam El-Din.

Topping the list was a law submitted by the government establishing a sovereign wealth fund to manage state-owned assets.

The LE200 billion Egypt Fund will be headquartered in Cairo. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait told MPs the draft law had been presented to parliament after MPs repeatedly urged the government to set up mechanism to oversee the management of under-utilised and misused assets.

“We decided to follow the lead of countries like Singapore, Saudi Arabia, China, Norway and the United Arab Emirates and establish a wealth fund,” said Maait.

“It will not seek to privatise state companies but to maximise their returns and use assets in a more productive way, sometimes in partnership with the private sector.”

The law was roundly criticised by the 25-30 bloc of MPs. Diaaeddin Dawoud said such funds were the prerogative of wealthy countries and unlikely to be of help to a country as indebted as Egypt. He also complained that “the fund’s resources will not be subject to any kind of supervision, not even by parliament.”

Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal pointed out that there are two types of sovereign wealth fund — those based on sources of natural wealth and those that seek to attract investments. 

“The concept of sovereign wealth funds is known across the world. They seek to maximise returns on assets and attract investments at the same time,” he said.

According to Maait, the fund will initially focus on the petrochemical, mining, tourism and pharmaceutical industries.

MPs also approved amendments to articles 4, 17 and 20 of Law 89 for 1960, which regulate Egyptian nationality and the issuing of residence permits. 

Changes to Article 4 will allow adult resident foreigners to apply for Egyptian citizenship if they maintain a five-year bank deposit of at least LE7 million. 

Changes to Article 20 divide the residence permits of foreigners in Egypt into four categories —  special residence permits, normal residence permits, temporary residence permits and residence permits based on bank deposits. 

Abdel-Aal insisted “the law does not mean that Egyptian nationality is for sale.”

“This is the kind of cheap jibe some television channels trade in and ignores the fact the Interior Ministry will retain the final say on whether a foreigner is granted Egyptian nationality or not. Foreigners are not automatically granted Egyptian nationality upon meeting the conditions. The government will ensure that they do not pose a threat to national security and that they are willing to invest in the country,” said Abdel-Aal.

Only eight MPs voted against a government-drafted law that will allow army commanders named in presidential decrees to receive a raft of honours and privileges. 

Named commanders will be eligible for ministerial privileges as well as diplomatic immunity when travelling abroad. Commanders will also be immune from any prosecution for actions taken in the course of their work between 3 July 2013 and 8 June 2014 unless the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces says otherwise.

According to a report by parliament’s Defence and National Security Committee “the law was submitted on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the 30 June Revolution which led to the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood regime. This law seeks to honour senior army officers who were ready to sacrifice their lives, side with the Egyptian people and keep the nation stable.”

MPs voted in favour of a government-drafted law regulating branches of foreign universities in Egypt. According to parliament’s Education Committee, “the objective of the law is to upgrade the level of higher education and scientific research in Egypt. Existing laws only allow the creation of branches of foreign universities in Egypt through bilateral agreements. The government is changing this and removing legal red tape to make it easier for Egyptian students to access good education opportunities.”

On Tuesday parliament approved a law reducing the pensions of cabinet ministers, their deputies and provincial governors. “The existing law states that the pension of cabinet ministers should equal 80 per cent of their salaries. The changes reduce that figure to 25 per cent,” said Abdel-Aal.

Abdel-Aal said the law was in keeping with the harsh economic conditions Egypt is passing through.

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