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A new House of Representatives: A new business lobby

Businessmen who won seats in the last election are expected to chair important parliamentary committees

Gamal Essam El-Din , Tuesday 12 Jan 2021
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One conclusion to be drawn from the 2020 parliamentary elections in which many businessmen stood is that business is seeking greater representation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, reports Gamal Essam El-Din.

Political analyst Gamal Zahran divides the businessmen who ran for election into two categories. One group, he said, “are not members of high-profile business organisations and own or run small businesses.

“The main thing they are seeking from parliament is immunity.

“A second group, who are mostly members of the pro-government Mostaqbal Watan Party, comprise figures that head large-scale enterprises.” According to Zahran, they are seeking greater influence in the formulation of new legislation that directly affects their interests.

At a time when the government of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli is increasingly dependent on the private sector to raise investment, and the newly elected parliament is expected to discuss new legislation dealing with the stock exchange, mortgages, electronic trade, investments and taxes, it is only natural that businessmen would seek a greater say in shaping economic policy, says Zahran.

Ahmed Samir, head of the outgoing Economic Affairs Committee, told reporters he expects that businessmen “will form some kind of lobby because the committee is expected to deal with a great deal of economic legislation, including an anti-trust law, laws regulating foreign exchange, the unified investment law, the commercial markets law and a foreign trade law”.

The Planning and Budget Committee, which deals with customs regulations and taxes, is also likely to be of particular interest to business-oriented MPs.

The majority of the 18 high-profile businessmen who won seats in parliament are members with either the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association (EBA) or the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham).

EBA members include MP Sherif Al-Gabaly (a fertiliser producer), Senator Mohamed Al-Manzalawi (industrialist), Senator Hassanein Tawfik (an information technology expert), and Senator Ahmed Sabbour (contractor). Adel Al-Lamie, Hani Al-Assal, Ahmed Yosri Qotb, and Ahmed Al-Taibi are also EBA members.

AmCham parliamentarians include Mohamed Abul-Enein (owner of Ceramica Cleopatra Group), Mohamed Al-Sallab (a distributor of ceramic products), Talaat Al-Sewedy (producer of electric cables), Moetaz Mohamed Mahmoud (a private contractor), Amr Al-Sonbati (a private contractor), Sahar Talaat Mustafa (owner of an Alexandria-based tourist company) and Mohamed Abdel-Maqsoud (owner of a tourist village in the Red Sea resort of Hurghada).

The AmCham list also includes senators Mohamed Al-Morshedi (a private contractor), Ahmed Abu Hashima (a steel tycoon), and Mohamed Abu Ghali (a car dealer).

“The Industrial Committee is of a direct interest to businessmen involved in productive activities and so it is important they have a strong voice there,” said Zahran.

Businessman Talaat Al-Sewidi, who headed the Energy Committee in the 2015-2020 parliament, is expected to retain his position.

Leading contractor Moetaz Mohamed Mahmoud is tipped to chair the Housing Committee at a time when it will discuss a new housing law intended to overhaul the old apartment rental system and encourage greater private investment in housing.

Sahar Talaat Mustafa, a businesswoman who was a deputy in the 2015-2020 parliament, is expected to chair the House of Representatives’ Tourism Committee.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 January, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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