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Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Egypt’s upcoming parliament session reflects potential to ease coronavirus restrictions: MP

Egypt's parliament will convene on the 29th of April after a month hiatus over coronavirus concerns

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 13 Apr 2020
Egyptian Parliament
A file photo of Egypt's Parliament (Photo: Reuters)
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The Egyptian parliament’s decision to meet on 29 April as scheduled has sparked speculation that the Egyptian government might resort to relaxing anti-coronavirus measures in the near future.

MP Mostafa Bakri said there is a growing sentiment in government circles that the state should relax anti-coronavirus measures in the coming period to help prevent economic stagnation while obliging businesses and state institutions to comply with strict precautionary measures against the virus

"I think President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and many government officials and businessmen are in favour of this option, which could maintain balance between fighting the virus and keeping the economy in action at the same time," said Bakri.

Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said on Sunday that it is necessary that parliament meets on schedule later this month without any further suspension.

"We have a busy legislative agenda including looking at two laws on proposed real estate tax exemptions and an increase in bonuses granted to state employees," said Abdel-Aal.

The two laws are part of measures that were taken by President El-Sisi to help mitigate the negative economic impact of the coronavirus on low and middle-income citizens, and also support businesses – particularly the tourism and civil aviation sectors – hit by the economic fallout from the measures adopted to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Parliament's budget and planning committee is also expected to begin discussing the new state 2020/21 budget on 29 April. The budget, approved by the cabinet in a meeting on 26 March, was referred to parliament on 30 March in line with the constitution.

Head of the budget committee Hussein Eissa told reporters this week that the constitution gives parliament a period of 90 days (beginning on 1 April and ending on 30 June) to discuss and vote on the budget and the annual economic development plan.

Abdel-Aal also said that the chamber will discuss government-drafted amendments to the law on epidemic diseases, aiming to stiffen measures aimed at fighting viruses.

He added in a statement on Monday that MPs will be required to follow certain measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus among them and staff during the upcoming session.

MPs will sit on marked seats that maintain safe distancing of at least one metre.

Parliament's secretary-general Mahmoud Fawzi indicated Monday that the Shura Council's meeting hall will also be used to host the discussions of the House's 49-member general committee in a way that ensures a safe distance between each member.

"Parliament committees with a big number of MPs can also use the Shura Council to hold their meetings whenever chairpersons find it necessary," said Fawzi.

The Shura Council – a consultative upper house – was created in 1980 by late president Anwar El-Sadat, but it was dissolved following the ouster of the former Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

Fawzi also indicated that MPs, staff, parliamentary reporters and guests will be required to wear facemasks before they enter the House building. They will also undergo tests to detect high temperature, exceeding 37.3 degrees.

"Violators of these precautionary measures will not be allowed to enter the House building," said Fawzi, also indicating that "parliament's meeting halls are regularly disinfected and sanitised in line with relevant standards in this respect."

Egypt’s parliament was scheduled to convene on 29 March, but due to the coronavirus fears it decided to postpone meetings to 12 April. On 9 April and following the government's decision to extend the curfew for another two weeks (until 23 April), parliament decided to extend the suspension of its meetings until 29 April. The meetings will resume five days after the holy month of Ramadan begins on 24 April.

In the Monday statement, parliament speaker Abdel-Aal dismissed rumours that the House recently received a government-drafted law aiming to make it obligatory for citizens to donate to the Tahya Misr (Long Live Egypt) fund to help fight the coronavirus, which exceeded 2,000 cases on Sunday (12 April) and has so far killed 159 citizens.

"We have not received any law from the government or MPs suggesting in title or content that all Egyptians should donate a certain amount of money to the Tahya Misr fund to help fight the coronavirus," said Abdel-Aal.

The Tahya Misr fund was established by President El-Sisi following his election for the first time in 2014. The fund aims to help poor citizens living in slum areas, build new housing communities, as well as offer help in emergency cases like the coronavirus crisis. 

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