Could 70,000 Yanni concerts close Egypt’s budget deficit?

Facing a stagnating economy and a yawning fiscal deficit, Egypt has turned to its allies in the Arab Gulf and multilateral funders like the World Bank to try and plug the gap. In 2016, a new trio of potential saviors has emerged: elevator music virtuoso Yanni, canine detective Scooby Doo and pan-flutist Gheorghe Zamfir.

Their recent performances in Egypt brought in a combined total of LE3.7 million in entertainment taxes, according to a recent announcement from the Ministry of Finance.

Granted, that LE3.7 million is just a drop in the bucket compared to a half-year deficit of LE167.8 billion, but every little bit helps. If we generously assume a steady rate of revenue, it would take almost 68,000 performances by each of these artists, or roughly 186 shows per day, to close Egypt’s projected year-end deficit of LE251 billion.

In less star-studded tax news, the ministry also announced a 74 percent increase in Real Estate Tax Authority revenues, which reached LE815.97 million in the eight months ending in February. According to authority head Samia Hussain, this was driven by a 120 percent increase in real estate tax collection to reach LE582 million during the period.

Various administrations have been trying to implement a property tax since at least 2008, and only succeeded in 2014. In addition to public opposition, implementation of the tax has been slowed by logistical problems in assessing and collecting taxes due to the absence of a centralized database tracking property sales.

While these figures come as moderately good news for the budget, they were not enough to save Hany Kadry Dimian, who lost his post as finance minister in Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle. The Yanni press release was among Dimian’s final official correspondences.


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