Egypt’s public and media have been attentively and appreciatively following the activities of the new House of Representatives. These activities started in earnest two weeks ago once the House concluded its procedural sessions during which it elected its speaker and his two deputies, and formed its committees.
The House made a strong, unconventional start with an action that had the effect of causing ripples in still, if not stagnant, waters. It started not by assuming its lawmaking role as was so far customary, but by overseeing the performance of the executive authority. The House demanded that the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers all stand before it to report on what the government and respective ministries achieved, what is in the pipeline, and what they failed to achieve and why. It was obvious that the House was taking its role as overseer very seriously, not merely in the routine manner that would applaud accomplishments but was instead assessing achievements and taking officials to account in case of shortcomings or failures.
With the House giving precedence to its overseer role over its lawmaking role, some may be tempted to think that lawmaking may be pushed into the background. But this cannot be; lawmaking is bound to come to the fore, pushed by the priorities of national effort and the bills to be presented by the government and by MPs. Anyone following this series of unresolved issues we carry into 2021 would not have failed to see that these include some vital lawmaking. Major among the laws that need to be passed by parliament are the family law for Christians in Egypt, the law for old rents of non-residential housing units, the law for old rents of residential housing units, and the law governing traffic on Egypt’s streets. In case of the last-mentioned law, it is important that it should place strict regulations for promptly monitoring roads and taking drivers to account should they throw the traffic rules to the wind as they are wont to do.
Today I tackle another problem that is as yet unresolved and that requires action in 2021; that is the problem of plastics waste. This problem was first highlighted by the government in mid-2019 when it asked parliament to issue legislation that would limit the unbridled use of plastics products, and serve policies that would encourage investment in the collection and recycling of plastics waste, with a view to limiting the worldwide damage it inflicts on the environment at large and especially on marine environment and wildlife.
Despite the urgency of the issue of limiting plastics waste, the previous parliament never was able to address it because of an overloaded legislative agenda. Now the current parliament has inherited the problem; it is to be hoped that it would pass legislation that would cover all the aspects involved.
Limits must be placed on the use of plastics in production and packaging, in view of the difficulty of adequately dealing with the waste it generates given its non-degradability and the lack of definite means to recycle it. Many other nations have outpaced us in limiting plastics use, and replacing it in packaging with other biodegradable material such as paper, cardboard, glass, wood, or even metal. In Egypt, plastic bags are very commonly used in shopping of every type; we look forward to the day when they would be replaced by paper bags or bags made of textile or leather.
We need urgent plans to tackle the piles of plastics waste that choke garbage fills and that do not lend themselves to breakdown or recycle. Given that they are non-biodegradable, they are left to the wind to blow in every nook and cranny, causing immeasurable damage to land and marine environment and wildlife.
Limiting plastics use can never really take off without serious policies and pragmatic plans to redirect or re-channel the plastics industry which has been been thriving as part of our economy for more than half-a-century. Millions of Egyptian pounds have been poured into investment in that industry, and millions of people are employed in it in various domains such as design, production, marketing, and others. Motivational regulations should be put in place to encourage that industry to re-channel its efforts into environment-friendly products.
It is obvious that the plastics use and waste problems wait among others that need to be addressed by parliament in 2021.
29 January 2021