Egypt eyes tough economic reforms
EGYPT hopes a US$12 billion financing deal with the IMF will usher in an economic turnaround but real progress hinges on a tough reform package avoided for decades to stave off unrest.
The financing over three years – deemed an endorsement to attract more foreign aid – would go together with a currency devaluation and streamlining of Egypt’s bloated subsidy system.
But experts warn that the loan alone would serve as little more than an “aspirin’’ and a stopgap for a deep-rooted economic malaise.
In a country where many rely on state-subsidised bread and imports for basic foodstuffs such as wheat, inflation has already risen at a time of low foreign currency reserves and a thriving black market exchange.
More than five years after its 2011 uprising – partly fuelled by economic disparities – that swept away veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak, the country is still reeling from the fallout.
The uprising unleashed years of tumult that culminated with the overthrow of president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and a jihadist insurgency that has driven away tourists.
Since Mr Morsi’s overthrow, Arab states of the Gulf which opposed his Islamist movement have showered Egypt with over $20 billion in aid and investments, but that has proved to be a short-acting salve.
The dire state of the economy, according to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, makes the long deferred economic reforms inevitable.
The IMF loan is essential to bolster foreign currency reserves which are down to $15.5 billion.
But this will not suffice on its own and may only aggravate the plight of the lower and middle classes. –