Following a 40-day suspension, Egypt’s parliament – the House of Representatives – will meet on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss a number of legislative amendments necessary to contain the negative impact of the outbreak of the coronavirus.
The amendment of the law regulating the state of emergency will feature prominently on the agenda of the discussion. According to a parliamentary report, four articles of the emergency law (162/1958) will be amended to give the president new powers necessary to handle critical health situations such as the outbreak of the coronavirus.
"The powers, which were not part of the law when it was issued for the first time in 1958, include giving the president the right to suspend the school and university year and postpone the payment of taxes and electricity and water bills, etc," said the report.
The amendments were approved by the legislative and constitutional affairs committee in an urgent meeting on Saturday. Parliament is also expected to renew the extension of the state of emergency for another three months, beginning on 27 April.
In economic terms, parliament will discuss and vote on eight laws aiming to contain the negative financial impact of the coronavirus. The list will include a seven-article law on the financial measures necessary to contain the negative impact of the virus on the state's economic, production and service sectors. The law gives the cabinet the right to intervene to postpone the payment of certain taxes and social insurance to help businesses provided that they do not fire workers or cut their salaries.
The house will also amend four articles of the income tax law 991/2005) to give new exemptions to low and limited-income brackets. The real estate and property tax law (196/2008) will be also amended to relieve businesses of some tax burdens imposed on their affiliated lands.
The amendment of four articles of the current state budget 2019/20 will also be discussed to procure an allocation of EGP 10 billion necessary to mitigate the financial cost of the coronavirus and stimulate the national economy at the same time.
The House will also take a vote on legislative amendments aiming to increase pensions by 80 percent, and give bonuses to state employees that will increase their salaries by 12 percent.
The legislative agenda this week also includes discussing a new 113-article law drafted to regulate small, micro and medium-scale productive enterprises in order to boost their contribution to the national economy.
The House will also discuss a 19-article law on regulating the performance of psychiatrists and the professionals who care for psychologically troubled patients.
The House is also expected to take a final vote on two laws that were discussed in January and February. The first is a 22-artice law on Central Depository and Registration (93/2000), and the second is a new four-article law regulating the performance of deputy provincial governors.
Parliament took this week a number of strict anti-coronavirus measures. MPs and parliamentary reporters will be allowed to enter the House's building only after they test negative for the coronavirus and pass through glass self-sterilisation chambers. Guests and visitors will not be allowed to enter parliament.
Parliament's secretary-general Mahmoud Fawzi indicated in a statement on Sunday that parliament's decision to reconvene this week sends a message that its meetings will continue while at the same time taking the necessary anti-coronavirus precautionary measures.
He revealed that the Ministry of Military Production has provided parliament with all the necessary sterilisation equipment and material necessary to prevent the infiltration of the virus.
"Parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal has expressed deep thanks to Minister of Military Production Mohamed Al-Assar and to his ministry for producing high-quality sterilisation equipment and material in record time," Fawzi said.