CAIRO: “I didn’t resign because of the anti-monopoly law and we [the government] respect parliament’s decision regarding the matter, Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, said in a press conference Saturday.
Last week, several MPs hinted that Rachid had resigned from his post and had not attended the parliamentary sessions debating amendments to the anti-monopoly law.
Rachid told reporters that he was on a pre-planned family trip, the timing of which had nothing to do with the final outcome of the said law. He explained that the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mufid Shehab Eldin and Hesham Ragab, legal assistant to the Minister of Trade and Industry were present at the parliamentary sessions on the government’s behalf.
“The government is satisfied with the amendments made to the law, and if we look at the matter objectively we will find that our current status [after the amendments] is much better than what it was before, Rachid said.
This whole saga was the result of “rumours and assumptions people made regarding the PA debate over the anti-monopoly law, even though it wasn’t the only contentious law being discussed during this PA session, he said, citing the child law.
He also stressed that despite the positive outcome of the law, the government will draft new amendments to propose during the next parliamentary session. Among these amendments will be the introduction of strict guidelines on the processes of mergers and acquisitions and the revision of the relationship between the Egypt Competition Authority (ECA) and the Consumer Protection Authority in monitoring commodity prices.
With regards to the steel sector and the price differences between local producers, Rachid said that although this phenomenon is “unnatural, [he] cannot ask those who sell with high prices to decrease their prices because they will stop producing, or those who sell cheaper to increase their prices because it’s unreasonable.
He refused a suggestion to implement an export ban on steel, as he had done with cement, saying that this will not stop the rise in steel prices because 80 percent of its raw materials are imported, unlike cement.
“The steel case is still under study by the ECA and results will be announced when the investigation is complete, he said when asked about progress on the steel cartel case. However, the true solution to the current steel pricing situation is thought to be in increasing production by introducing new players into the market, which is why the ministry has granted five new steel licenses.
“Rachid is depressed because of what is happening. He is an honest man and cannot tolerate that Ahmed Ezz is controlling parliament, opposition MP Mostafa Bakry had said last Wednesday.
He was commenting on the proposal by Ahmed Ezz, MP and owner of Ezz El Dekheila, that the leniency clause introduced by Rachid, which exonerates the first to report monopolistic practices from all charges and fines, be amended to a “partial exoneration that should be decided by the court.
The anti-monopoly law had been approved two days before Ezz made the proposal (which was hastily approved by the People s Assembly) leading both the opposition and several NDP members to question who really runs parliament.
Ezz controls 60 percent of the steel industry and his status as a powerful NDP member in parliament is regarded by many as a conflict of interest.
At the press conference Rachid refused to answer questions regarding this matter, saying that this question should be directed at parliament, not at the Minister of Trade and Industry.
The ministry in cooperation with the ECA, the regulatory body that initially proposed the amendments, recommended the monetary penalty for monopolistic practices be increased to either 10 or 15 percent of the company’s profits. The parliament vetoed the proposal but approved a maximum penalty of LE 300 million, up from LE 10 million.
“The outcome is not what we had expected or hoped for, Mona Yassine, chairperson of the Egyptian Competition Authority (ECA), had told Daily News Egypt in a previous interview following parliament’s changes to the proposed law.
“Passing the law with a fixed penalty of LE 300 million will benefit companies as it is not such a big figure compared to the profits these companies make, Yassine
But Rachid remained optimistic, saying the new penalty is 30 times more than what it used to be, “which is definitely progress .