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Egypt to pay $750 mln in arrears to international firms in June: CBE governor

Ahram Online , Tuesday 16 May 2017
 Tarek Amer
Egypt's central bank governor Tarek Amer Reuters
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Egypt is set to pay $750 million in arrears to international companies in the beginning of June, the country's central bank governor Tarek Amer announced on Tuesday at a press conference.

Amer said that a similar debt payment has already been made to the companies, though he did not specify as to when the payments were made.

Egypt has outstanding dues of about $3.5 billion to international oil and gas companies.

The statements by Amer were made following a meeting of economic ministers led by Prime Minister Sherif Ismail at the cabinet, where Amer said that the financial crisis that has hit the country is now over, stressing that Egypt would witness a "leap" in 2018.

Amer added that the country's reserves have covered imports for seven months.

Egypt's foreign reserves stood at $28.641 billion at the end of April, up from $28.5 billion at the end of March. 

Amer added that the government's fiscal reform programme, which was adopted in 2014 and included last year's flotation of the currency, had a major role in improving conditions.

Egypt freely floated its currency against the dollar in November as part of its economic reform programme, which was first implemented in mid-2014 in an attempt to curb a growing state budget deficit. 

The reform programme, which also includes cutting subsidies and implementing new taxes, including the value added tax (VAT), has been endorsed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has delivered to the Central Bank of Egypt an initial $2.75 billion as part of a three-year $12 billion loan.

Earlier this month, the IMF announced that it had reached a staff-level agreement with the Egyptian government on the first review of Egypt’s economic reform programme, which is a prerequisite for the disbursement of the next $1.25 billion tranche of the loan. 

During the Tuesday press conference, Amer praised the country's newly approved investment law, which has been described as "good progress" by the IMF, adding that the law would speed up development in the sector. 

The new law includes incentives for investment such as a 50 percent tax break on investments made in underdeveloped areas and government aid in connecting utilities to new projects.

One provision will return to investors half of what they pay to acquire land for industrial projects if production begins within two years.

The law also restores private sector free zones – areas exempt from taxes and customs – a controversial provision that has driven some to question whether tax revenues should be forfeited at a time of austerity.

On tourism, Amer said that the sector has seen a 50 percent rise in revenues in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year.

Egyptian tourism, a pillar of the country's economy and a key source of hard currency, has taken a blow since the Russian airliner crash in October 2015, with Russia maintaining a flight ban to the Egypt. 

Earlier this month, a tourism ministry source told Ahram Online that Egypt saw $1.6 billion in tourism revenues from around 1.7 million tourists who visited the country in the first three months of 2017, compared to around 1.2 million tourists in same period last year.

The country's tourism receipts recorded around $1.5 billion in revenue from January to March last year.

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