By Abd Elkader Rahman, Aswat Masriya
Reaping 116 seats in Egypt’s newly-elected House of Representatives, businessmen already have their legislative agenda set out: The investment law, tax law and the law governing local municipalities, which they say have the most significant impact on Egypt’s ailing investment climate.
Parliamentarian and Chairman of the Federation of Egyptian Industries Mohamed al-Sewedy, who ran with the “For the Love of Egypt” coalition, told Aswat Masriya that he believes that amending the investment law is a priority to prepare the state to become more competitive and to attract foreign investment.
He added however, that it will take more than amending economic legislation to stimulate business activity, emphasizing that laws governing local administrations must see a significant overhaul to affect change in the provinces.
Sewedy stressed that the conflict of interest and inconsistency between different government bodies must end, describing this as a necessity for economic growth and encouraging investors.
With their current representation in parliament at 19.46 percent of the total 596 seats, businessmen have a higher percentage in parliament than they did under ousted president Hosni Mubarak in the 2010 parliament, which stood at 18 percent.
Within months of the 2010 elections, a popular uprising unseated Mubarak and ended his rule, with the election results often cited as one of the main triggers of the 2011 uprising. The elections had taken place amid high public distrust of the government in an era marked by nepotism and the marriage of business and politics.
The “For the Love of Egypt” electoral coalition, the brainchild of 70-year-old ex-military intelligence general Sameh Seif Alyazal, is known for its public support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his administration.
It is now in talks to create a new coalition, The Coalition to Support the Egyptian State and it is expected to bring together more than two thirds of parliament, or 400 representatives.
Sisi, who holds legislative power until the House convenes, amended the investment law in March ahead of a major investment summit held in Sharm El-Sheikh to lure foreign investors, in a move that prompted wide speculation.
While the amended law reduced red tape for investors, creating a “one-stop-shop” for companies to issue licenses, it also facilitated liquefying companies and set new regulations to allocating and pricing state land.
Even thought these changes have been in place for nine months now, businessmen say there is no improvement in issuing licenses or gaining access to state land.
Tarek Hassanein, another recently elected member of the House of Representative, agrees with Sewedy that amending the investment law to activate the “one-stop-shop” is going to be at the top of his priorities.
All licensing and approvals must be issued from a single body, he said, adding that the process must not exceed one month and that this is “what we will work on in parliament.”
Most parties that ran for the House elections did not announce clear economic platforms or the top economic legislations on their agenda. But the party with the highest number of seats in the House, the liberal-leaning Free Egyptian Party co-founded by business tycoon Naguib Sawiris which reaped 65 seats, had posited a detailed economic vision and is likely to play a role in pushing business issues to the top of the legislative agenda.
Ayman Abul Ela, secretary-general of the Free Egyptians said the party has an economic agenda, which includes amending laws regulating investment, taxes and tenders.
The party with the second largest number of seats, the Future of a Nation (Mostaqbal Watan) which raked 50 seats, is a relatively new party with no clear economic platform. It is headed by 24-year-old Mohamed Badran, who made an entrance on the political arena appearing next to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi during the inauguration of what was dubbed the New Suez Canal, raising speculation that he was being groomed for power.
One of the predominantly youth-based party’s new representatives, Sara Othman, said the party is concerned with economic legislations which stimulate investment and protect the rights of the state.
She added that the party will focus on adopting laws that encourage small and medium enterprises to create jobs for young people.
Finally, Al-Wafd Party, which has the third largest bloc in the House, after nabbing 45 seats, will work on tax reforms to guarantee social justice, according to its representative Mohamed Fouad.