CAIRO: The Ministry of Health has announced contingency plans ahead of a planned strike by Egyptian pharmacists scheduled to take place in Cairo’s downtown Doctors’ Syndicate by midday today.
Dr Kamal Sabra, assistant minister of pharmaceutical affairs, said during a press conference Sunday that certain pharmacies will remain open during the strike, following a decree issued by Minister of Health Hatem El-Gabaly.
Pharmacies in general hospitals, health insurance pharmacies and pharmacies owned by El-Shirka El-Masreyya will all stay open during the strike, which pharmacists announced on Friday.
The decision to strike follows an announcement made last week by Ashraf Al-Araby, chairman of the Tax Authority, pursuant to which taxes imposed on pharmacies will be subject to an increase, nullifying a previous decree which imposed a fixed tax of 15 percent on pharmacies.
The Ministry of Health also says that shortages of medicines can be reported to it via its hotline.
In related news, Mohamed Abdel Gawad, deputy chairman of the Pharmacists’ Syndicate, held a meeting with Ashraf Al-Araby, chairman of the Tax Authority, at the authority’s head office in Heliopolis on Sunday in response to a request by Mahmoud Saad, anchor on the daily “Al-Beit Beitak talk show.
On the show, Al-Araby said that the fixed tax agreement was illegal according to the tax law of 2005 whereby the tax authority determines tax values on full financial data as is the case with all other businesses.
“According to this law, said Al-Araby, “the only businesses exempt from this regulation are small and medium enterprises whose net profits do not exceed LE 20,000 per year. but pharmacies are not small and medium enterprises and hence should not be treated as such.
He added that the previous arrangement will hold only in cases where the pharmacies fit the criteria of small and medium enterprises.
Commenting on the standoff, Minister of Finance Youssef Boutros-Ghali said that “the problem of pharmacists is that they do not want to pay their taxes, on Channel One’s 9 O’clock news on Saturday.
On “Al Beit Beitak, Abdel Gawad said that he was willing to negotiate with the Tax Authority and recall its decision to go on strike the moment they reach an agreement with the tax authority.