Egypt expects Qatar deposit within a week, minister says

Egypt expects Qatar deposit within a week, minister says

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Mon, 13/08/2012 - 18:51

Qatar should deposit US$500 million in Egypt’s central bank within a week, the Egyptian finance minister said, as the country battles to pull its economy out of a tailspin after 18 months of political turmoil.

The Gulf emirate said on Saturday it would deposit $2 billion in all.

Speaking on Sunday, Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed said officials had also discussed with a Libyan delegation that Tripoli might support Egypt’s depleted finances.

Egypt’s foreign reserves began a steep decline last year when a popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak led the central bank to start selling dollars to prop up the country’s pound.

The economy now faces a balance of payments crisis and is being further undermined by high state borrowing costs, and experts say financial aid is urgently needed to avoid a currency devaluation.

Saudi Arabia stepped in with financial support in June, approving $430 million in project aid for Cairo and a $750 million credit line for oil imports.

The latest pledge from Qatar is one of several disbursements by the emirate to help out governments across the Middle East and North Africa since the Arab Spring.

“The Qatari side promised to deposit in the region of $2 billion, of which $500 million will come, God willing, before the eid,” Saeed told reporters, referring to the Eid el-Fitr holiday at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

The start of the eid is determined by the lunar calendar, so the precise date is not fixed. It is expected to begin around 19 August.

The deposit follows a meeting in Cairo between Qatar Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy.

The Egyptian finance minister said the possibility that Libya could help Egypt by making a deposit at the central bank had been discussed during a visit by a Libyan delegation.

“They asked for time to study [this],” Saeed said, adding that Libyan officials said the nation had financial assets that were frozen abroad and which they hoped would soon be unblocked.

“They promised that if some of the money is freed up, they would place a deposit with the central bank,” he said, adding that he expected the sum to be around $2 billion.

There was no immediate Libyan comment.