IMF visit to Egypt delayed for few weeks

Reuters, Tuesday 3 Jan 2012

Egyptian government calls for postponement due to its current 'busy agenda', report quotes planning minister as saying

Fayza Aboul Naga
The Egyptian minister of Planning and International Cooperation

An expected visit by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Egypt this month to discuss the country's economic problems has been delayed for "a few weeks", independent daily al-Shorouk cited a government minister as saying on Tuesday.

Egypt, whose economy was hammered by the uprising that unseated Hosni Mubarak in February, turned down a US$3 billion IMF facility in June last year, with the ruling military generals reluctant to work up debts without a popular mandate.

Economists say it now risks a full-blown currency and budget crisis unless it can drum up urgent funding from abroad and ministers have indicated Egypt may now be prepared to return to the negotiating table.

The IMF's visit was postponed upon the request of the Egyptian government because of its busy agenda and the IMF would be informed of a new date, the newspaper quoted Planning and International Cooperation Minister Faiza Abu El-Naga as saying.

The IMF said in late December it remains "in close contact" with Egyptian authorities on possible funding. Its visit to Cairo was already delayed from mid-December because of security concerns.

The international body said benchmarks for any funding package would need to "come from a programme that is designed and owned by the Egyptian authorities and enjoys the broad political support necessary for its successful implementation."

Economists say Egypt is heading for a currency crisis if it does not swiftly stabilise an economy battered by political turmoil that prompted an exodus of investors and tourists.

Because of worsening economic conditions the country may now need as much as $15 billion to stave off a full-blown financial crisis, some economists say.

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