IMF says Egypt talks productive, has met Brotherhood
Ahram Online, Thursday 19 Jan 2012
Global body concludes two-day visit to Cairo saying it will return soon to discuss a possible loan

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded its visit to Egypt on Wednesday, saying it had met with the economic committee of the Freedom and Justice Party and many of the country's other main political bodies and that it will resume talks on a new $3.2 billion loan soon.

The IMF's first statement since its arrival in Egypt said further meetings will take place in the coming weeks to continue "dialogue and close work with the authorities on the specifics of Egypt's economic programme which could be supported by the IMF."

The IMF delegation arrived on Sunday evening to restart discussions on providing a $3.2 billion loan to boost Egypt's finances. The delegation was headed by Masood Ahmed, director of the fund's Middle East and Central Asia department.

In June 2011, Egypt's ruling military council rejected an IMF loan for the same amount, saying it did not wish to increase the country's external debts.

But with Egypt burning through its foreign reserves and recession looming, the country has reluctantly returned to the global body for financial support.

A report released on Wednesday by the World Bank forecast economic growth of 3.8 per cent for Egypt in 2012. This is larger than the 1.8 per cent it predicted for 2011 but still far below the average of 5.5 per cent the country achieved over the last four years.

"Egypt's economy, despite its solid and sound fundamentals, is facing a number of difficult challenges," Ahmed explained in the IMF statement.

"[Economic challenges] have to be addressed through an economic programme that safeguards macroeconomic stability and creates conditions for a strong recovery."

The IMF stressed that it is essential to discuss Egypt's economic programme with the country's emergent political parties to ensure there is broad political support.

"This should help reduce uncertainty and boost confidence in the programme's successful implementation," the statement said.

On Friday, a senior economic official in the FJP, the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, said the party would back a deal to obtain emergency aid from the IMF provided there are no conditions attached and alternatives are explored first.

The IMF said it had met with members of other parties and civil society represented in the Advisory Council of Egypt's ruling military.

It described the initial talks with authorities as "productive".

"This initial visit will be followed by technical work during the coming weeks, both in Cairo and in Washington," the IMF's statement concluded.