New Egypt finance minister cautious on IMF loan – statement


Egypt is not ready for a decision on funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the government said on Saturday in a statement that named Mumtaz al-Saeed as the country’s new finance minister.

“Regarding the fate of the deal with the IMF for the $3.2 billion (2.0 billion pounds) fund, which is the deal that has been suspended because of the recent events, al-Saeed said it is too early to know the fate of this loan,” the Finance Ministry said.

An interim government that has been lobbying for foreign funds to bolster a ballooning budget deficit resigned last month and the new Prime Minister chosen by the country’s army rulers, Kamal al-Ganzouri, has yet to formally announce a new cabinet, Reuters reports.

Several names of new ministers filtered into local media over the weekend, including that of al-Saeed. Ganzouri had promised to have his full cabinet lined up by Saturday but the official news agency MENA said he was now having a rethink.

The finance ministry statement appeared to confirm the exit of Hazem el-Beblawi, who said on Wednesday he had not been approached to stay in the job.

Beblawi, who was appointed in July, has struggled to drum up foreign help to fund Egypt’s budget deficit. Since an uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, foreign investors have fled and tourism slumped, leaving Egypt with dwindling foreign reserves and a shaky currency.

Beblawi said on November 20 Egypt would ask to start formal negotiations for the IMF funding package, which it turned down earlier this year amid opposition from the army.

El-Saeed, who was a personal adviser to Beblawi, would be Egypt’s fourth finance minister this year.

State television on Friday listed about a dozen ministers from the outgoing cabinet, including Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr, who would remain in what is being billed a “national salvation government.”

Planning and International Cooperation Minister Faiza Abu el-Naga and Electricity and Energy Minister Hassan Younes both served under Mubarak and state TV listed them as staying on.

Analysts say potential candidates might balk at accepting jobs that may be short-lived in Egypt’s tumultuous politics.

The army has promised to hand power to elected civilians by July and says it can appoint the cabinet until then.

But a parliamentary election that began last week suggested a strong future role for Islamists who are likely to challenge the legitimacy of Ganzouri’s cabinet.

Ganzouri had a reputation for good economic management when prime minister under Mubarak in the 1990s but the fact he served under the former leader has drawn criticism from protesters.

On Saturday a Cairo court ruled the privatisation of the Arab Company for Foreign Trade, sold in 1999 during Ganzouri’s tenure, was void because it was not paid for in full.

Dozens of Mubarak-era officials are on trial for corruption and abuse of power. Ganzouri is not among them.