Egypt abolishing jail terms for businessmen

The Egyptian parliament to abolish laws that imprison investors. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2020

Egypt abolishing jail terms for businessmen

  • “Harming public money or the health of citizens entails serving sentences. Any economic or administrative violations are punishable”

CAIRO: The Egyptian parliament has announced that laws that imprison investors have been scratched, stressing that imposing jail time on financial wrongdoers affects investment in Egypt.
Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal said in a public parliamentary session that he and parliament will not allow investment to “escape” from Egypt, “so the idea of replacing imprisonment with deterrent fines must be preserved.”
“I will never allow the imprisonment of businessmen involved in financial violations,” Abdel-Aal said.
Egypt’s parliament takes its cue from countries which have abolished penalties to safeguard the freedom of investors in economic legislation, in support and encouragement of investment, said Economic Affairs Committee Chairman in Parliament Ahmed Samir. Samir said the principle of not imprisoning investors in financial crimes was approved by parliament at the beginning of the current legislative term but is not final.
He explained that investors do not enjoy absolute immunity against imprisonment and that there are crimes in which jail is necessary, including harming public money or the interest of the state or harming the health of citizens.
“Harming public money or the health of citizens entails serving sentences. Any economic or administrative violations are punishable,” Samir told Arab News.
Mohsen Adel, former head of the Investment Authority, stressed that Egypt has taken the view of international institutions which is believed may encourage investment incentives to attract direct foreign investment, and that preventing businessmen from going to jail guarantees the protection of the investor who works in good faith and is similar to international standards.

SPEEDREAD

Egypt’s parliament takes its cue from countries which have abolished penalties to safeguard the freedom of investors in economic legislation with the aim to support and encourage investment.

Ahmed El-Zayat, a member of the Egyptian Businessmen’s Association, said the abolition by parliament of imprisoning businessmen in economic legislation is aimed at encouraging investors to invest more and to provide all logistical support to help deal with global competition and attract foreign investment.
El-Zayat pointed to efforts such as solving the problems of troubled factories, refinancing, operating, reconciling with investors and providing a safe business environment that provides the factors needed to increase investments.
El-Zayat said doing away with incarceration of investors and replacing that with financial fines and providing new mechanisms to tighten control over economic business to prevent any excesses and achieve economic justice will raise the confidence of businessmen in the Egyptian economy, especially in industry. He said this will realize the state’s vision of increasing Egyptian exports $55 billion over the coming years.
Mohamed Waheed, chairman of Catalyst Company and founder of the first electronic market for trade in Egyptian products, said the state’s new initiative is a “legislative boom” which will add to the advantages and incentives guaranteed by the investment law, making Egypt the most prominent destination for investors as it enhances its competitiveness and increases demand for work and investment.

Waheed emphasized that the new investment law and its amendments, in addition to investment incentives and positive benefits for projects, organizes the file of penalties for the economic sector within the framework of a general approach from the state to develop the investment environment in a way that enhances its competitiveness and elements of its attraction to local and foreign investments.
He said this vision is a message from the state that supports serious investment and protects well-intentioned investors from the risks and fluctuations of local and global markets.
Al-Waheed added that this will guarantee the seriousness of work and strengthen the values of governance, transparency and serious competition on the basis of common interests and hard work to reap the fruits of development without measures that limit market capabilities and hinder opportunities for expansion and prosperity.


‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

A mask-clad young Iraqi woman speaks to another during an anti-government demonstration in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, despite the ongoing threat of the novel coronavirus. (AFP)
Updated 28 min 56 sec ago

‘We want to breathe, too’: Solidarity from Iraq

  • Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say

BAGHDAD: Seventeen years after US troops invaded their country and eight months since protests engulfed their cities, Iraqis are sending solidarity, warnings and advice to demonstrators across America.
Whether in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square or on Twitter, Iraqis are closely watching the unprecedented street protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis as a police officer knelt on his neck.
“I think what the Americans are doing is brave and they should be angry, but rioting is not the solution,” said Yassin Alaa, a scrawny 20-year-old camped out in Tahrir.
Only a few dozen Iraqis remain in tents in the capital’s main protest square, which just months ago saw security forces fire tear gas and live bullets at demonstrators, who shot back with rocks or occasionally Molotov cocktails.
Violence left more than 550 people dead, but virtually no one has been held accountable — mirroring a lack of accountability over deaths at the hands of security forces in the US, Iraqis say. Now, they want to share their lessons learned.
“Don’t set anything on fire. Stay away from that, because the police will treat you with force right from the beginning and might react unpredictably,” Alaa told AFP.
And most importantly, he insisted, stick together. “If blacks and whites were united and they threw racism away, the system can never stop them,” he said.
Across their country, Iraqis spotted parallels between the roots of America’s protests and their own society.
“In the US it’s a race war, while here it’s a war of politics and religion,” said Haider Kareem, 31, who protested often in Tahrir and whose family lives in the US.
“But the one thing we have in common is the injustice we both suffer from,” he told AFP.
Iraq has its own history of racism, particularly against a minority of Afro-Iraqis in the south who trace their roots back to East Africa.
In 2013, leading Afro-Iraqi figure Jalal Thiyab was gunned down in the oil-rich city of Basra — but discrimination against the community is otherwise mostly nonviolent.
“Our racism is different than America’s racism,” said Ali Essam, a 34-year-old Afro-Iraqi who directed a wildly popular play about Iraq’s protests last year.
“Here, we joke about dark skin but in America, being dark makes people think you’re a threat,” he told AFP.
Solidarity is spreading online, too, with Iraqis tweaking their own protest chants and slogans to fit the US.
In one video, an elderly Iraqi is seen reciting a “hosa” or rhythmic chant, used to rally people into the streets last year and now adapted to an American context.
“This is a vow, this a vow! Texas won’t be quiet now,” he bellowed, before advising Americans to keep their rallies independent of foreign interference — mimicking a US government warning to Iraqis last year. Others shared the hashtag “America Revolts.”
Another Arabic hashtag going viral in Iraq translates as “We want to breathe, too,” referring to Floyd’s last words.
Not all the comparisons have been uplifting, however.
The governor of Minnesota, the state in which Minneapolis is located, said the US street violence “was reminiscent of Mogadishu or Baghdad.”
And the troops briefly deployed by US President Donald Trump to quell unrest in Washington were from the 82nd Airborne — which had just returned from duty in Iraq.
“Trump is using the American army against the American people,” said Democrat presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden.
Iraqis have fought back online, tweeting “Stop associating Baghdad with turmoil,” in response to comparisons with their homeland.
Others have used biting sarcasm.
In response to videos of crowds breaking into shops across US cities, Iraqis have dug up an infamous quote by ex-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
“Lawlessness and looting is a natural consequence of the transition from dictatorship to a free country,” he said in response to a journalist’s question on widespread looting and chaos in Baghdad following the 2003 US-led invasion.