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Finance minister, US ambassador discuss assistance to Egypt

Economic challenges currently facing Egypt top agenda at meeting between newly-appointed Finance Minister Momtaz El-Said and US Ambassador Anne Patterson

Ahram Online, Friday 17 Aug 2012
Patterson
Anne Patterson (Photo: AP)
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Egyptian Finance Minister Momtaz El-Said met with US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson on Wednesday to discuss promised US funding, government efforts aimed at restoring Egypt’s national economy and a prospective loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Following the meeting, Patterson announced that a US State Department delegation would arrive in Cairo by the end of August to continue talks on the latest political and economic developments and the means of providing Egypt with funds, especially after the appointment of Egypt's new government.

President Barack Obama himself, among other personnel from the US administration, promised Egypt $2 billion in the form of debt swaps and credit guarantees in 2011, shortly after Mubarak was unseated. These promises, however, have yet to materialise.

Over the past 18 months, Egypt’s economy suffered from a balance of payments deficit resulting from the drop in the inflow of foreign investments as well as tourism. Consecutive cabinets since March 2011 have tried to procure external funds to bolster the economy.

During the meeting with the American diplomat, El-Said stressed Egypt’s need for support from international institutions and other countries such as the US.

Patterson, for her part, said it was a "good time" for Egypt to resume negotiations with the IMF, especially in light of the country's current domestic political stability.

A fresh round of negotiations with the IMF should kick off on 22 August as Managing Director Christine Lagarde visits Egypt to discuss the framework of the Washington body’s assistance to Egypt.

Accordingly, Egypt's government is preparing a brand new economic programme which it will present to the IMF as part of negotiations for a loan. The programme, aimed at getting IMF approval for the direction the Egyptian economy is heading, will supposedly have a greater emphasis on social justice Abdallah Shehata, economic adviser to President Mohamed Morsi told Ahram Online, Wednesday.

El-Said discussed some features of the programme with Patterson, which have yet to be made public.

He explained that the low-income sector will not be affected by the procedures proposed in the programme as “they aim to overcome economic disturbances and consequently minimise the socio-economic gap between citizens.”

One of such procedures, the minister indicated, is subsidy rationalising. Another is extending health insurance to cover students.

The meeting also tackled funds promised by Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait. ''Egypt is hoping to receive the first Qatari deposit – some $0.5 billion out of a total of $2 billion – before the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr holiday, which Qatar has promised to deposit in Egypt's central bank," said El-Said.

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