Egypt seeks IMF aid amid virus-inflicted downturn

CAIRO (AFP) – Egypt is seeking an aid package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli said on Sunday.

In a televised press conference with the central bank governor and other ministers, Madbouli did not specify the size of the one-year financial aid package the government was seeking from the IMF alongside technical assistance.

He said the loan would be negotiated “within days”.

In a statement on Sunday, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said Egypt’s request would be presented to the Fund’s executive board “within the next few weeks”.

But she struck a clearly supportive tone, saying Cairo had “responded quickly and decisively” to limit the spread of the virus and support affected people and businesses.

Georgieva added that “the Central Bank of Egypt has also implemented timely measures to support the domestic economy.”

Madbouli, while touting the North African economy’s strong performance before the outbreak, said the aid package was crucial, given that flights are grounded and tourism halted.

“No one knows when this crisis will end, so we wanted to take some measures that would build on the economy’s gains, especially after the complete shutdown of the aviation and tourism sectors,” he said.

Egypt’s tourism sector earned USD12.6 billion in 2019, the highest figure in nearly a decade.

Workers at an agriculture and fruit exporting company in Egypt wear face masks as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: AP