Uproar in Egypt over hike in mobile recharging cards

The new logo of Telecom Egypt is pictured at their headquarters building in Cairo, Egypt, in this September 20, 2017 photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 03 October 2017
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Uproar in Egypt over hike in mobile recharging cards

CAIRO: Egyptians are angry over a government decision to ratify a 36-percent devaluation of mobile phone balance recharge cards.
“It’s completely unfair, that’s quite a lot,” a mobile user told Arab News after realizing that she received about 70 percent of the price of the purchased card in charging credit.
The decision, ratified by the state-run Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA), came into effect over the weekend.
Since then, there have been boycott calls on social media against the telecom companies applying the increase.
The increase is not on the price of the recharge cards, but on the delivered value given from the company to the customer.
This means a recharge card costing 100 Egyptian pounds ($5.67) will give 70 Egyptian pounds of credit.
Justin Dargin, a Middle East expert at the University of Oxford, said the devaluation is part of government attempts to raise revenue and achieve budgetary stability following years of political instability.
“The devaluation of the mobile recharge cards operates as a de-facto tax, which inevitably would injure the Egyptian working class in much the same way as a regressive tax would,” he told Arab News.
“It’ll take a larger percentage of the income of the poorer segments of the Egyptian populace.”
On Sunday, some mobile users in Egypt were confused when they tried recharging their mobile balance and received the full value of the card, without the 36-percent devaluation.
Many thought the government had backtracked its decision due to public anger, but a source at a telecom company denied that.
“Adding the full credit has occurred in some prepaid cards which have not been updated with the new pricing, but all recharging cards will be updated during the coming period,” Al Masry Al-Youm newspaper quoted the source as saying.
The Association of Citizens Against Price Rises called for a boycott of mobile telecom companies in Egypt, asking users to refrain from buying balance recharge cards.
It accused the TRA of regulating monopolization because it obtains 2-percent profit from mobile service operators.
The price hike from Egypt’s top telecom operators Orange, Vodafone and Etisalat comes as landline monopoly Telecom Egypt launches WE, the country’s fourth mobile network, owned by the government.


Filipino remittances from the Middle East down 15.3% in 2018

Updated 17 February 2019
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Filipino remittances from the Middle East down 15.3% in 2018

  • Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion previously
  • Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption

DUBAI: Money sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East went down 15.3 percent to $6.62 billion in 2018 from $7.81 billion a year earlier, latest government data shows.
Lower crude prices, which affected most OFW host countries in the region, the job nationalization schemes of Gulf states and a deployment ban last year of household service workers to Kuwait were the primary reasons for the decline, a reversal from the 3.4 percent remittance growth recorded in 2017.
A government study has noted that Saudi Arabia was the leading country of destination for OFWs, with more than a quarter of Filipinos being deployed there at any given time, together with the United Arab Emirates (15.3 percent), Kuwait (6.7 percent) and Qatar (5.5 percent).
Cash remittances from OFWs in Saudi Arabia fell 11.1 percent last year to $2.23 billion from $2.51 billion a year before; down 19.9 percent to $2.03 billion in the UAE from $2.54 billion in 2017; 14.5 percent lower in Kuwait to $689.61 million from $806.48 million and 9.2 percent down in Qatar to $1 billion in 2018, from $1.1 billion a year earlier.
The Philippine government issued a deployment ban for Kuwait early last year, and lasted for five months, after a string of reported deaths and abuses on Filipino workers in the Gulf state.
OFW remittances from Oman, which implemented a job nationalization program like that of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, dove 33.8 percent to $228.74 million in 2018 from $345.41 million a year before. In Bahrain, cash sent by Filipinos rose 2.2 percent to $234.14 million last year from $229.02 million previously.
Meanwhile, overall OFW remittances grew 3 percent year-on-year to $32.2 billion, the highest annual level to date.
“The growth in personal remittances during the year was driven by remittance inflows from land-based OFs with work contracts of one year or more and remittances from both sea-based and land-based OFs with work contracts of less than one year,” the Philippine central monetary authority said.
Personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption and in 2018 accounted for 9.7 percent of the Philippines’ gross domestic product.