IMF ready to aid Egypt without conditions
Cairo - The head of an IMF mission to Egypt ruled out imposing conditions on Cairo for a much-needed loan to help the country reduce a huge budget deficit after last year's unrest, reports said on Wednesday.
Masood Ahmed told Egyptian dailies, however, that the International Monetary Fund would prefer to see Egypt produce a two-year programme of reforms that is rubber-stamped by all of the country's post-revolt factions.
Ahmed, director of the IMF's department for the Middle East, North Africa and Central, lead talks this week in Cairo where the government formally asked the Fund for a $3.2bn loan to shore up its economy.
"The Fund does not plan on imposing any conditions" on a loan to Egypt, Ahmed was quoted as saying by the independent Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper, with similar remarks carried by the government Al-Ahram daily.
"All we want is a two-year reform programme that is approved by all political forces and that succeeds in reducing the budget deficit," he told Al-Masry Al-Youm.
Ahmed also met Tuesday with members of the Islamist Freedom and Justice Party which won a crushing victory in legislative polls to discuss the loan possibility, the FJP said in a statement.
Egypt is facing a budget deficit of 144 billion Egyptian pounds ($24bn) which analysts expect to deepen.
Al-Ahram quoted Ahmed as saying Egypt's biggest challenges were "restoring confidence in the Egyptian economy, creating jobs and protecting the poor".
He stressed however that "energy subsidies and tax irregularities" are among Egypt's key woes, Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.
The IMF's visit to Cairo has been marred by petrol shortages and rumours of price hikes that have triggered panic across the capital since Sunday, as motorists rushed to fill up their cars causing gridlock.
Officials have blamed speculators and smugglers for the crisis.
Oil Minister Mohammed Abdullah Ghorab said the crisis should ease on Wednesday as authorities pump additional petrol to satisfy needs.
The IMF loan issue has been the cause of controversy in Egypt, where the economy slumped as instability and violence continued to grip the country after the ouster of former strongman Hosni Mubarak last year in a popular revolt.