Friday,26 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)
Friday,26 April, 2019
Issue 1407, (30 August - 5 September 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Busy legislative session planned

A host of socio-economic laws will be presented in parliament’s new session


Busy legislative session planned
Busy legislative session planned

MPs will discuss new laws on local councils, construction offences, the real estate tax and loan defaulters when parliament reconvenes in October, reports Gamal Essam El-Din.

Alaa Abed, the head of parliament’s Human Rights Committee, told reporters on 18 August that the committee is in the process of drafting legislation that will end prison sentences for individuals who default on loan repayments.

“We took this initiative on humanitarian grounds, to prevent individuals who take out small loans from going to prison,” said Abed. 

“We hope to safeguard society from disruption and protect children whose mothers and fathers have till now been forced to serve prison sentences for defaulting on loan payments.” 

On 21 August President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi issued presidential pardons for 2,376 prisoners, including 627 defaulters. 

The pardons seek to help individuals, particularly women, imprisoned because they failed to repay loans taken out for familial reasons such as paying expenses for their children’s marriages. 

“Some female debt defaulters have served years in prison after taking out very small loans — often less than LE1,000 — to help their daughters marry or else overcome some other economic problem,” said Abed.

“We should not imprison women because they suffer deprivation and poverty. We should not turn them into criminals because of unjust social conditions.” 

Abed said the committee’s amendments should be ready for discussion when parliament reconvenes in October. 

“Articles 341 and 376 of the penal code will be changed to eliminate custodial sentences, replacing them with fines or community service,” said Abed. 

Human Rights Committee member Margaret Azer said on 18 August that Article 232 of the Criminal Procedures Law will be also amended to prevent disruptions to family life. 

“We do not want the children of loan defaulters to be forced onto the street,” said Azer. “We want to keep families intact whenever possible.” 

Azer said the Human Rights Committee, the Ministries of Planning and Social Solidarity and civil society organisations are in the process of launching an initiative that will provide defaulters, particularly women, with financial assistance to set up small-scale projects. 

“We hope these projects will provide a source of income for poor families and prevent them from resorting to loans,” said Azer. “We want loan defaulters, both men and women, to be integrated into society and public life and become economically productive rather than return to prison.”

Moetaz Mahmoud, head of parliament’s Housing Committee, told reporters on 16 August that the committee has drafted a new real estate tax law.

Mahmoud said the draft revenues tax law addresses problems that have arisen with the implementation of the real estate tax law in force since 2008. According to Mahmoud, the legislative changes will generate up to LE17 billion in tax revenues.

“Concerning real estate, the law stipulates levies on buildings used for residential and commercial purposes. Residential units will be taxed according to size, quality and the districts in which they are located. It will ensure all citizens pay tax in a satisfactory way and on time,” said Mahmoud.

Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait has indicated the ministry has no objections to amending the real estate tax law as long as the changes address complaints related to its implementation.

The Housing Committee’s Deputy Chairman Khaled Abdel-Aziz also revealed that a new government-drafted law on the settlement of construction offences will be presented to parliament when it reconvenes.

“The law seeks to help citizens reconcile with the authorities over construction offences,” said Abdel-Aziz. “It will provide for a three-month reconciliation period before which government authorities will not be allowed to demolish buildings.”

“There are currently 2.7 million buildings in Egypt that infringe construction codes, breach civil aviation rules or fail to meet safety standards.”

“Construction on agricultural lands is another major violation, but these offences will be settled under a different law,” said Abdel-Aziz.

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