Topping the list is the new government-drafted general unified finance law which was approved by the Senate in July.
Fakhri Al-Fiqi, head of parliament’s Budget Committee, said the law aims to upgrade the system of drafting the state’s annual budget.
“This will come by merging two pieces of legislation regulating the annual state budget and government accounting into a single bill,” Al-Fiqi said, adding that these two pieces of legislation were passed a long time ago and had become unable to keep pace with the latest changes in budgeting and accounting.
A report prepared by the Budget Committee explained that the general finance law helps achieve the government’s economic reform plans and enhance the government’s socio-economic development objectives. “The government believes that this will never be possible without merging two laws which regulate Egypt’s financial performance – the state’s Public Budget Law 53/1973 and Government Accounting Law 127/1981,” the report said. The step to unify the two laws comes upon the recommendation of international financial institutions and in light of the worldwide shift to digital and mechanised budgetary and accounting systems, according to the report.
Minister of Finance Mohamed Maait said the finance law was “a very progressive step because it targets transparency during the preparation of the country’s annual budget in terms of using the e-signature system and modern mechanised methods which help achieve fiscal discipline, rationalise public spending and boost accountability and budgeting performance.
“The bill is part of the government’s economic and structural reforms that go in line with modern international methods in the area of budgeting and accounting,” Maait said.
Article I of the new finance law states that all state institutions covered by the annual state budget will be subject to the law. These institutions include the state’s administrative units, local administration units, general and service organisations, private funds and accounts, economic organisations and projects funded by private accounts.
Another legislative priority on parliament’s agenda are the new amendments to Law (17/2010) regulating the participation of the private sector in implementing infrastructure and service and public utilities projects. “This will come through allowing the private sector to implement works related to designing, funding, implementing, operating, utilising and maintaining public projects,” a report prepared by the Budget Committee said, adding that “the amendments also allow the state’s administrative system to award contracts to private sector companies in a much easier way to implement most infrastructure projects in areas of transport, electricity, communications, information technology, water, sanitary drainage, education, etc.”
The report said the amendments come within the state’s new strategy of carrying out a number of mega-development housing projects, the most important of which is building a new administrative capital. “The role of the private sector in these projects is very important and so it is necessary that the Law (17/2010) be amended to give it a larger role in this respect in the coming period,” the report said.
The draft amendments were referred to parliament a long time ago, according to Yasser Omar, deputy chairman of the Budget Committee. Omar said they should be up for discussion now “because it is high time to give a boost to mega national projects which have become beyond the financial capacity of the state and government contracting companies.” He added that when new amendments go into effect they will open the door for the private sector to undertake the implementation of a greater number of mega national projects.
Omar also explained that the new amendments will help simplify procedures required for winning project contracts and eliminate administrative obstacles which will make it much easier for private companies to tap into the field of mega projects.
In a procedural session on 2 October, Parliament Speaker Hanafi Gibali revealed that a raft of government-drafted legislation was referred to parliament in the last days. “We have new amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law (150/1950), the State’s Resource Development Fee Law (147/1984) and the Regulation of the Possession of Ammunition and Weapons Law (394/1954),” Gibali said.
Informed sources said the amendments to the Criminal Procedures Law, approved by the cabinet in September, aim to address the problem of the increasing number of unused cars parked in public places. “To meet this objective, the amendments will cut short the expiry of lawsuits filed before courts from three years to six months, thus allowing the government to expropriate unused cars parking in public places without need for a judicial ruling,” said a source, adding that “if an unused car is parked in a public place for more than six months, it would be automatically expropriated by the government without a need for a judicial order.”
MPs also have their share of draft laws. On 2 October, Gibali referred two laws drafted by MPs Hala Abul-Saad and Emad Saad Hammouda.
The law drafted by Abul-Saad, a member of the Conservatives Party, aims to relieve citizens who do not pay taxes on time from paying additional fees.
“The law demands the government to waive collecting these fees if a taxpayer settled due taxes ahead of the date of the implementation of the law,” Abul-Saad said.
The law drafted by Hammouda, head of the Housing Committee, seeks to amend some articles of the law regulating the performance of the Organisation of the New Housing Communities (59/1979).
Two other MPs – Ayman Abul-Ela and Mervat Abdel-Azim – also submitted draft laws. Abul-Ela drafted a new law entitled “the Medical Responsibility Legislation” which obliges medical service providers, particularly hospitals, to offer the best services in terms of accuracy and commitment. “Those who offer service not in accordance with well-defined scientific standards or commit a medical mistake due to gross negligence will be severely punished, ” Abul-Ela said, adding that his draft bill also aims to “toughen penalties on those who accept conducting abortion operations unless pregnancy is life-threatening to the mother”.
Abdel-Azim’s draft law aims to contain Egypt’s runaway population growth by offering a financial incentive of LE50,000 a year to every family which has only two children. “This incentive will be provided over 10 years only, while those who have more than two children will be deprived of the LE50,000 incentive and of receiving any kind of state subsidies, ” Abdel-Azim said.
She argued that Egypt’s population is increasing at a very rapid pace “and so we should move fast to raise awareness of this increase and its future dangers for Egyptians”.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly