The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has completed the first review of Egypt’s economic reform programme supported by a 12-month Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), which allows the North African country draw $1.67b, the IMF said in a statement on Saturday.
The 12-month SBA for $5.2b was approved by the Executive Board on 26 June 2020, to support the Egyptian authorities’ economic reform programme during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Egyptian authorities have managed the COVID-19 pandemic and the related disruption to economic activity very well. The proactive measures taken to address health and social needs and to support the sectors most directly affected by the crisis have helped mitigate the economic and human impact,” remarked Antoinette Sayeh, IMF Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair.
She noted that the growth slowdown has so far been less severe than expected with Egypt expected to be among the few countries with positive growth rate this year. External market conditions have also improved with a strong return of portfolio inflows.
“There are still risks to the outlook particularly as a second wave of the pandemic increases uncertainty about the pace of the domestic and global recovery. The high level of public debt and gross financing needs also leave Egypt vulnerable to volatility in global financial conditions. Continued strong policy implementation will further strengthen resilience and help maintain investor confidence,” Sayeh said.
According to the IMF Board, Egypt’s budget execution is on track to achieve the programme target for fiscal year 2020/21. The existing budget envelope provides sufficient flexibility to accommodate any additional support for vulnerable groups in the event of a second wave of COVID-19 while maintaining the programme’s fiscal objectives.
The IMF statement indicated that the envisaged economic recovery should allow public debt to resume its downward trajectory from FY2021/22, and the continued shift toward longer-term debt issuance could mitigate rollover risks. Continued progress on fiscal structural reforms is critical to ensure additional space for high priority spending on health, education, and social protection.
“The Central Bank of Egypt’s (CBE) data driven approach to monetary policy has been instrumental to anchor inflation expectations and achieve low and stable inflation,” it said.
“Monetary easing in recent months should further support economic activity and ease appreciation pressures from large capital inflows, which has had a dampening effect on inflation. Two-sided exchange rate flexibility is essential to absorb external shocks and maintain competitiveness.”
“The banking system has been resilient thus far, having entered the crisis well-capitalized and with ample liquidity. The CBE’s initiatives have helped ensure continued access to credit through the crisis; ongoing financial sector supervision will be critical to maintain the resilience of the banking sector as crisis initiatives begin to expire.
Noting that the government’s structural reform agenda is appropriately ambitious, Sayeh said: “Sustained progress on structural and governance reforms is essential to foster higher, greener, and more inclusive private-sector-led growth. The government’s ongoing initiatives to support a green recovery are welcome.
“Continued focus is needed on reforms to enhance the transparency of state-owned enterprises and to facilitate trade. Timely finalisation of a restructuring plan for the National Investment Bank is important for reducing fiscal risks.”
She concluded that with enhanced transparency of state-owned enterprises, and a level playing field for all economic agents and removing bureaucratic obstacles to private sector development would lead to durable improvements in Egypt’s investment climate and governance.
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