Egypt's external debt reached $34.9 billion at the end of the 2010-11 financial year, an increase of $1.2 billion on the year before, a report from the Central Bank of Egypt said on Thursday.
The figures look set to spur further protests by a range of international NGOs who claim such debts are "odious" and "illegitimate". The government paid off around $1 billion in loans over the fiscal year, figures show.
The European Union is Egypt’s largest creditor and is owed a total of $10.8 billion by the country. Japan is listed as the second biggest creditor to the tune of $4.2 billion, while the United States is in third place with $3.1 billion.
Kuwait topped the list of Arab creditors, with total loans to Egypt of $854.1 million by the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year in June. Saudi Arabia lent $307.6 million, while the United Arab Emirates is owed $162.4 million.
Figures show the Arab world has lent Egypt around $1.6 billion, 4.6 per cent of the country's total debt. Countries like Libya, Jordan, Yemen and Sudan have all lent Egypt smaller sums of between $20 million and $50 million.
Government debt makes up around 94.5 per cent, or around $33 billion, of the total with the private sector making up the balance.
The recent climb in Egyptian borrowing has come under attack by the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt (PCDED), which claims Egypt's military rulers have amassed four times more debt in their one year of rule than toppled President Hosni Mubarak ever managed in a similar period.
The campaign is pushing for Egypt's debtors to write off all debt acquired, claiming such loans were illegitimate as the Egyptian people did not have a say.
"This debt contracted by the military council is purely odious because there was no democratic representation," says Renaud Viven, who works on law issues in the Belgium branch of PCDED.
"We cannot say there was a valid consent of the Egyptian state and the creditors cannot say they were not aware. As this debt is odious, it is also illicit -- or illegal, it is the same thing since the doctrine of odious debt is a source of International public law -- and must be cancelled without any condition."