Egyptian parliament to discuss emergency law amendments that would give president new powers

Gamal Essam El-Din , Thursday 16 Apr 2020

The powers would include the right to suspend the school and university year, to postpone payment of utility bills and taxes, and to quarantine returning expats

A file photo of Egypt's Parliament (Photo: Reuters)

An informed parliamentary source told reporters on Thursday that a number of the House of Representatives’ committees are expected to meet on Saturday to discuss new government-drafted amendments to laws regulating the state of emergency and the provision of tax exemptions and pension hikes.

The source indicated that the emergency law, law number 162 of 1958, will be amended to give the president new powers necessary to contain critical health conditions such as the outbreak of the coronavirus.

"These include the powers of suspending the school and university year, shutting down certain ministries and authorities entirely or partially, postponing the payment of water, electricity and natural gas bills entirely or partially, and compelling Egyptian expatriates returning home to undergo necessary health and quarantine measures," said the source.

"The measures also include giving the president the right to allocate cash and in-kind assistance to individuals and families, offer financial support to medical research, provide financial and in-kind support to damaged economic sectors, postpone the payment of certain taxes, and turn schools and youth centres into field hospitals.

"These powers are not part of the current emergency law and so it will be amended," said the source.

Egypt's current state of emergency will expire on 27 April, but is expected to be renewed for another three months prior to that expiration.

The source said committees will also discuss a new law which will give the cabinet the right to intervene to give tax exemptions and delay the payment of taxes and social insurance for businesses, provided that they don't fire workers.

The source also indicated that the committees will also discuss the law on increasing pensions that was decided on 1 April 2016.

"The amended law, law number 148 of 2019, will help add five bonuses to pensions and so increase the value of pensions by 80 percent," said the source.

Article 158 of parliament's internal bylaws give the speaker the right to ask committees to meet at any time.

In related news, parliament's secretary-general Mahmoud Fawzi said in a statement on Thursday that, in-line with Article 277 of the house's internal bylaws, speaker Ali Abdel-Aal has decided that plenary meetings be held on 21 April - next Tuesday - instead of 29 April.

Parliament decided last week not to postpone its plenary meetings any longer and that they would be held on 29 April. Abdel-Aal, however, decided that they would be held on 21 April, making use of the powers granted to him by Article 227.

An informed source told reporters on Thursday that the speaker's decision reflects a pressing need and that parliament has an urgent legislative agenda to discuss.

As well as discussing the emergency law and pension amendments, committees will also discuss the new 2020/2021 budget.

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