CAIRO: The Egypt government has introduced a new economic stimulus package in light of the economic setbacks caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and the country’s subsequent lockdown.
The new package, submitted by Minister of Planning and Economic Development Dr. Hala El-Said, allocates more than 50 billion Egyptian pounds ($3 billion) to support the tourism sector. It includes a six-month exemption on real-estate tax for hotels and an eight-percent decrease in interest rates on bank loans for the tourism industry.
The government is already providing aid to several of the commercial sectors most affected by the pandemic, including tourism, real estate, agriculture, and industry. The real-estate sector has been given a three-month exemption from taxes, and the price of natural gas and electricity has been significantly reduced to help boost industry.
The pandemic has already had an impact on the government’s plans for the next fiscal year, which will see a 69-percent increase in investment in the health sector, including the expansion of hospitals and primary care units.
On March 19, the government suspended all flights into and out of Egypt to curb the spread of COVID-19. Initially, the suspension was set to end on March 31, giving the government an opportunity to sterilize hotels and tourist sites. But flights are still suspended — apart from special flights to repatriate Egyptian citizens stranded abroad — and will only be lifted when the prime minister and the minister of civil aviation give the green light.
The country’s vital tourism sector has been hit hard by the suspension of flights, and there have already been significant job losses. The government hopes that more aid will enable companies to stay afloat during the crisis.
The proposal includes assistance for the agricultural sector too, with a two-year exemption on taxes on farmland.