On 1 October, following a two-month summer recess, the House of Representatives began the fourth legislative session of its five-year term. To mark the occasion, Speaker Hanafi Gibali delivered a speech outlining the legislative agenda, saying the House’s priority is to serve the interests of citizens and solve the problems they face.
In its fourth session, the House is set to pass a host of draft laws, discussing legislative changes “in an objective way and in close coordination with the government to ensure that they serve the national interest.”
Gibali also called on MPs to participate in the upcoming presidential election. “It is that you urge citizens in your districts to exercise their voting rights and make the election a step on the road to full democracy,” he said.
The legislative season will last for nine months and conclude with approval of the budget in June 2024.
Economic Committee Deputy Chair Mohamed Abdel-Hamid told Al-Ahram Weekly that the House will discuss government-drafted laws as part of the social support package announced by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to reduce the impact of inflation on limited-income families.
In a conference in Beni Sweif on 16 September, Al-Sisi said he had urged the government to raise the exceptional cost of living allowance to LE600, up from LE300, for all government and public sector employees and to increase annual income tax thresholds from LE36,000 to LE45,000. The president also raised the benefits of Takaful and Karama social protection programmes by 15 per cent and doubled the exceptional grant for pensioners and beneficiaries from LE300 to LE600.
The House’s budget and manpower committees approved Al-Sisi’s social support measures on Sunday. Head of the Budget Committee Fakhri Al-Fiqi said the amendments will be put up for final discussion.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Alaaeddin Fouad said amendments to the 2005 income tax law are part of the president’s package of social safety measures aimed at reducing the tax burden on those on low incomes.
The explanatory note attached to the bill suggests the following changes to tax brackets. Annual income between LE45,001-60,000 will be taxed 10 per cent; LE60,001-75,000 will be taxed at 15 per cent; LE75,001-215,000 will be taxed at 20 per cent; LE215,001-415,000 will be taxed at 22.5 per cent; LE415,001-1.2 million will be taxed at 25 per cent, and income above LE1.2 million will be taxed at 27.5 per cent.
MP Mervat Alexan, a member of the Homat Watan, said 13 million public and private sector employees will benefit from the changes.
On Sunday, the Budget Committee approved a draft bill allowing a three-month extension of the initiative that allows Egyptian expats to import a tax-free car. Committee head Al-Fiqi said the bill, which will be put up for vote on 15 October, will attract foreign currency. It stipulates that Egyptian expats place the equivalent of saved duties and taxes, in US dollars, in five-year certificate of deposit.
Abdel-Hamid told the Weekly there are “plenty of proposals carried over from the last legislative season to address” and economic laws will dominate the House’s new session.
“The social insurance bill, which streamlines insurance regulations, and the labour bill, which covers child labour, women in the workplace, maternity leave, strikes, working hours, minimum and maximum wages, automatic dismissal of workers, and labour lawsuits will feature prominently on the agenda,” he said.
Abdel-Hamid said there are signs the so-called old rent law will top the House’s legislative agenda. Last week, President Al-Sisi told a conference in the New Administrative Capital that it is “unacceptable” that property owners are unable to take advantage of what he said were two million housing units across the country.
Many predict the House will also be busy tackling social and political bills proposed by the National Dialogue. They include long-delayed amendments to the personal status law. A judicial committee was formed last year to redraft the personal status law after it was shelved following a backlash from women’s rights groups. The personal status law regulates marriage, divorce, child custody, guardianship, alimony, polygamy, inheritance and other family-related matters.
Changes to political laws, including the 2014 law on the exercise of political rights, the 1977 law regulating the performance of political parties and the 2014 law regulating parliamentary elections, might also find their way onto the House’s agenda.
MPs are also expected to amend the 2008 unified building law to reconcile building violations, update the Penal Code to address sexual harassment crimes, and discuss draft laws regulating drinking water, the Economic Court Law, the rights of foreign refugees, and incentives to encourage green hydrogen projects.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 12 October, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly