By Abdelrazek Al-Shweikh and Nihal Mounir
The committee formed by President Mohamed Morsy to liaise with the business community held the first of its meetings yesterday. The committee is headed by Hassan Malek, the President of the Egyptian Business Development Association (EBDA).
Mohamed Zaki El-Sweedy, a deputy with the Federation of Egyptian Industries, said “the meeting yesterday was to set the committee’s procedures and to identify the main economic issues that we will discuss moving forward. Our goal is to find solutions for a number of the most prominent economic problems that have faced the country over the last year and a half.”
Mohamed Momen, a member of the committee, called the committee a lifeline for the economy that will help solve the problems of the industrial sector by direct correspondence with the President and his cabinet and by submitting quick solutions for the most pressing issues.
Ilhamy El-Zayyat, President of the Egyptian Tourism Federation (ETF), said “the ETF has prepared a working paper for the tourism sector. Hasam El-Shaer, President of the Egyptian Chamber of Tourism Establishments (ECTE) and the sector’s representative with the committee, presented the paper during the meeting.”
The working paper outlines a number of the main concerns of the tourism sector. The paper stressed the need to involve representatives of the sector in the Constituent Assembly, to provide security, to solve the problems with traffic and transportation, to repair and maintain roads around tourist areas, and to treat the problem of public sanitation. The paper called on the improvements to first be implemented in tourist areas and city centers.
The paper also called for the financial sector to provide liquidity for tourism establishments through long-term loans to be settled after the return of tourism to its normal rates.
The paper suggested delaying tax and social security payments until tourism increases once again, with the payments eventually divided over a long period of time without penalties. The paper noted that all government agencies must work together to help the tourism sector in light of the negative circumstances that have faced touristic establishments over the last 15 months. Lastly, the paper warned against unlawfully imposing fees or taxes on the sector.
El-Zayyat noted that creating a unified system to regulate the tourism sector would avoid the problems of conflicting and overlapping responsibilities of various government agencies. Unifying regulatory bodies would have a positive impact on tourism establishments’ ability to provide high quality services and remain competitive.
Additionally, he called for the government to implement Law No. 16 of 2004, which dealt with the Ministry of Tourism’s oversight within the tourism sector. The law would create a single body charged with issuing tourism licenses which would serve as a one stop shop for licensing issues.
He also called for the government to reconsider real estate taxes imposed on the sector given the lack of a means to calculate them, particularly in the cases of historic hotels in undeveloped areas. Moreover, he stressed the need to implement court decisions to limit the organisation of Hajj and Umrah trips to tourism and travel agencies.