IN FITS AND STARTS

Business monthly (Egypt) - - EDITOR'S NOTE - DURHAM

year brings a fresh start. At least that’s what we tell our­selves as we jot down those res­o­lu­tions to lose weight, clean out the clos­ets, learn a new lan- guage and other peren­nial self-im­prove­ment goals. Egypt as well is ex­peri- enc­ing some­thing of a fresh start, in the sense that a full, newly elected Par­lia­ment starts work for the first time since 2012. There may be a new Cab­i­net in the cards as well, as the cur­rent min­is­ters must present a uni­fied eco­nomic plan to Par­lia­ment in the first quar­ter of the year—MPs must then de­cide whether to keep the cur­rent Cab­i­net in place or start over with new min­is­ters.

But much of what Par­lia­ment, the Cab­i­net and the coun­try as a whole must do in 2016 is ad­dress the lin­ger­ing is­sues of 2015 – dol­lar short­ages, am­bi­tious megapro­jects, gov- ern­ment re­forms and ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture. Un­der the Con­sti­tu­tion, MPs are tasked with re­view­ing and ap­prov­ing all the leg­is­la­tion passed in Par­lia­ment’s ab­sence – some 300 laws—within its first weeks. Among them are the sweep­ing new in­vest­ment law passed in the run-up to last year’s Sharm El-Sheikh eco­nomic con­fer­ence and the con­tro­ver­sial civil ser­vice law in­tro­duc­ing pri­vate sec­tor HR prac­tices to a bloated, in­ef­fi­cient pub­lic sec­tor. Mean­while, the long-promised value-added tax law has es­sen­tially been punted to Par­lia­ment, with Egyp­tian Tax Author­ity Chair­man Ab­del Moneim Mat­tar bluntly say­ing in Novem­ber that the de­ci­sion on when to im­ple­ment the VAT is “100-per­cent po­lit­i­cal.” As part of our cover pack­age, we look at the state of gov­ern­ment re­form in “Woo­ing the Mar­ket” on page 21.

The im­pe­tus for gov­ern­ment re­form is to at­tract in­vestors to pay for its size­able list of megapro­jects, which Pres­i­dent Ab­del Fat­tah el-Sisi touts as a quick fix to cre­ate jobs and build in­fra­struc­ture at the same time. The crowdfunding model of the New Suez Canal in­vest­ment cer­tifi­cates isn’t vi­able for all the big-ticket pub­lic projects Sisi wants de­liv- ered dur­ing his pres­i­dency, which in­clude 4 mil­lion acres of new agri­cul­tural land, 3,000 kilo­me­ters of new roads and a com­pletely new ad­min­is­tra­tive cap­i­tal. But as high-pro­file ini­tia­tives stall in ne­go­ti­a­tions, some an­a­lysts won­der if th­ese projects are too big and too quick. “Is Big­ger Bet­ter” on page 18 rounds up the pros and cons of megapro­jects.

Amid the push for fi­nanc­ing and in­vest­ment, all eyes are on new Cen­tral Bank Gov­er­nor Tarek Amer, who has the un­en­vi­able po­si­tion of man­ag­ing in­ter­est rates, in­fla- tion, ane­mic for­eign re­serves and a loom­ing pound de­pre­ci­a­tion. His first month on the job, how­ever, has not yet brought the longed-for clar­ity to the na­tion’s mon­e­tary pol­icy. In “Hard Up,” on page 27, we look at the chal­lenges fac­ing Amer and their im­pli­ca­tions for the coun­try.

There’s more to our roundup of the year’s big is­sues, so grab a cup of cof­fee and a dough­nut – there’s lots to choose from, as we dis­cov­ered in “Project Dough­nut” (page 38) – and enjoy this month’s is­sue. Ed­i­tor in Chief Rachel Scheier is off en­joy­ing the hol­i­days with fam­ily, so on be­half of the Busi­ness Monthly team, I wish you a Happy New Year and a fresh start.

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