How Egyptian businessmen react to state's precautionary measures against COVID-19
Businessmen who announced their commitment to quarantine and curfew through spending their times at home, have various opinions regarding the precautionary measures.
Businessman Naguib Sawiris warned against the continuation of the curfew after the two scheduled weeks, noting that the private sector is forced to cut salaries and cut out part of the employment.
"Sectors such as tourism have sacked or threatened millions of workers, and some companies are also reducing the workers, salaries to the quarter." he said in a phone interview.
He claimed that there are indications that returning to work is not dangerous compared to the expected damage and probably collapse of the business sectors if the current situation continues after the two weeks scheduled for the quarantine.
Sawiris stated that the precautionary measures taken by the state minimized the effects of coronavirus outbreak in Egypt, calling on the minister of health to encourage citizens to report symptoms as soon as they are felt and to quarantine themselves in their rooms to receive appropriate treatment instead of increasing deaths due to the late arrival of injuries.
The businessman clarified that his gold investment eliminated the negative effect of the virus on his business, despite the decline in the gold prices; he expected that these prices will rebound again.
It is worth mentioning that Sawiris Foundation, which is an Egyptian charity organization linked to business tycoons Naguib, Samih, and Nassef Sawiris, donated LE 100 million to support the country’s fight against coronavirus. The donation will be split into LE 40 million to support casual workers and the neediest families, and LE 60 million to be allocated for the Health Ministry and the state’s precautionary efforts.
Following Sawiris' announcement, CEO and Managing Director of GB Auto Group, Raouf Ghabbour, said that the Egyptian businessmen have suffered huge losses during the past period, and that they were the ones who incurred the losses of the currency liberalization, especially since this measure was made for the best interest of future generations.
Ghabbour added in a phone interview that the market is in a semi-stalled state, and that the sales movement is witnessing a very slow pace, but despite this, companies are forced to work, to pay off their financial obligations, and thus the companies are required to bear the payment of hundreds of millions per month without revenues.
Replying accusations stating that businessmen do not play the role they should play and donate to face the crisis of coronavirus, Ghabour said that businessmen will spare no effort in such crisis.
“I cannot donate any money knowing that my company might face a liquidity shortage during the coming period,” Ghabbour said.
Agreeing with Ghabbour, Businessman Hussein Sabbour criticized Egypt's measures, saying that if this situation continues, the country and all its industries will face bankruptcy. According to Sabbour, the infection or even the death of a percentage of the population is better than facing bankruptcy.
As per donation, Sabbour noted that his money is for his employees and their salaries, not for donation. “If I have a surplus in the bank, I will donate from it,” he stated. He demanded the state to open the labor market and to return the work immediately. “We cannot afford to sit at home,” he noted.
After Sabbour’s comments received very angry responses from the Egyptian citizens. Despite Sabbour’s earlier statement, his real estate development company Al-Ahly Sabbour announced its cooperation with “Tahya Misr” fund in purchasing several ventilators and 75,000 test kits to detect the emerging coronavirus infection, provide medical supplies for patients, and support doctors and nurses with all medical supplies that help them carry out their tasks.
Moreover, the company adopted another community initiative with the aim of supporting 30,000 of the neediest families affected by the spread of the virus through providing 250 tons of goods and basic needs to these families.
Meanwhile, businessman Yassin Mansour said that those who demand the full operation of the economy in these circumstances are "wrong". "I am with a partial curfew now, with the partial work of the economy," he added.
“We are witnessing difficult a period that we all must bear,” Mansour clarified, noting that the Egyptian lives are more important than losing money. He further called on the Ministry of Health to provide the coronavirus test kits to the private sector for money, not for free. “We as businessmen are willing to pay the cost of the test.”
Moreover, MP and businessman Mohamed Mustafa al-Sallab rejected the statements of businessman Hussein Sabbour, who stressed the necessity of returning the labor market immediately even if this results in deaths, stressing that the health of one citizen is more important than the money of the world; the Egyptian economy is able to return strong again, but the life of any Egyptian citizen now in danger will not come again."
For his part, Executive director of Al-Arabi Group and the son of its founder, Mohamed al-Arabi, announced that the company will not abandon any of its employees amid the crisis of the coronavirus outbreak and its economic effects on citizens, who are forced to stay at home in fear of spreading the virus.
Al-Arabi said in a video on social media that the group is currently considering advancing the date for the disbursement of grants and salaries, adding that the group is currently thinking of ways to support their employees, stressing that they are all one family.
Egypt earlier applied precautionary measures to curb the spread of coronavirus; the measures include imposing a two-week curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., canceling the end-of-year exams for all grades from the third primary grades to the third preparatory grade, suspending universities and schools across the country, closing sports centers, restaurants, cafes, bars, and commercial establishments from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m., and suspending flights until April 15.
On the same note, President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi announced on Mar. 22 in full the country’s economic plan to face the novel coronavirus.
CAIRO - 22 March 2020: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday announced in full the country's economic plan, in face of the novel coronavirus, as he read out loud a number of economic decisions, while marking the national Women's Day. This is considered to be Sisi's first public comments on coronavirus, since it started in Egypt.