Egypt leftist leader tells IMF he opposes loan

Ahram Online , Sunday 14 Apr 2013

Proposed loan must not harm poor, opposition leader Hamdeen Sabbahi tells IMF delegation; fund should not interfere in domestic Egyptian politics

The IMF's delegation during its meeting with opposition leader Hamdeen Sabbahi (Photo: Egyptian Popular Current)

Popular Current leader Hamdeen Sabbahi has told an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation that he opposes the fund's loan to Egypt if it harms the poor by eliminating subsidies, raising prices and reducing salaries.

In a press statement released following a meeting on Saturday evening, Sabbahi said he had told the delegation he would be supportive of any "unconditional support for the Egyptian economy which encourages investment and development."

However, "he opposes any loan which affects the lives of the poor and sets conditions which entail the elimination of subsidies, raising prices and reducing salaries."

Egypt is currently in negotiations with the IMF to receive a much delayed $4.8 billion facility targeting fiscal support. Last month, the Egyptian government presented an economic programme to the IMF which involved measures to cut the budget deficit, including slashing subsidies and raising taxes.

A technical delegation from the IMF arrived in Egypt at the beginning of April to resume talks with the Egyptian government over the planned loan.

Sabbahi, who came third in last year's presidential election, added, "The Popular Current can in no way agree to a loan whose [negative] effects will be borne by the largest segment of the Egyptian people [the poor]."

His statements came after a meeting with an IMF delegation headed by Andreas Bauer, division chief in the Middle East and Central Asia Department, at the Current's HQ in Giza.

The meeting was part of a series of meetings between IMF officials and Egyptian opposition figures about a package of reforms presented by the IMF to Egypt.

Observers believe the international lender wants Egyptian authorities to put forward an economic plan that garners some level of political consensus.

Last December, President Mohamed Morsi, fearing a popular backlash, reversed a raft of tax hikes – a core part of the government's economic reform programme – less than 24 hours after enacting them.

The $4.8 billion loan should not include conditions, Sabbahi added. The government should have the freedom to determine how the money is used.

The loan should help create new jobs and help young people and small farmers establish projects, Sabbahi said in message to the Egyptian government.  

Last November, the Popular Current launched a campaign against the loan, accusing the IMF of “causing our [Egypt's] poverty” and saying the loan was designed to permit interference in Egyptian politics.

Other opposition groups, meanwhile, have voiced subtle approval of the loan.

On Wednesday, Amr Moussa, a former Arab League secretary general defeated in last year's presidential election, told the IMF mission that Egypt needed the loan as soon as possible, Reuters reported.

"We are looking at the supreme interest of the country and not at narrow party interests, and on the basis of this, we support this loan," said Motaz Salah, spokesman for the liberal Wafd Party.

"We will give our view in our meeting with the head of the IMF mission on Monday," he said. "But we need to see the conditions, the measures that will accompany it."

Earlier on Saturday, the IMF delegation met with representatives of the Salafist El-Nour Party.

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