US Ambassador: Egypt's foreign reserves at critical low

US Ambassador: Egypt's foreign reserves at critical low

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Mon, 11/02/2013 - 14:20

Saying that "Egypt's numbers paint a bleak picture," US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson said that the country must focus on its citizens' economic needs.

Patterson said that currency reserves are “at a critical level, roughly US$14 billion, or three months’ worth of imports." She added that the number has held steady since July only as a result of regular cash infusions into the economy from Qatar and Turkey.

“These numbers do not take into account the billions that the government is in arrears to oil companies," she added. "And more importantly, they don’t highlight what Egypt is importing – basic food items and refined energy products, key determinants of social stability.  If Egypt cannot pay its import bill, her people will not be missing out on television sets and cars, but on electricity, gasoline and food."

In her speech before the Rotary Club of Alexandria, Patterson said that Egypt “has made great strides” since the 25 January revolution.  

“Elections generally regarded as free and fair elected a new president and, despite considerable controversy over the process that produced it, a referendum endorsed a new Constitution," she said, but she also warned that elections and constitutions are not enough without an active and healthy civil society.

“Egypt needs a new NGO law that clarifies the role of civil society and, more importantly, defines a clear and simple process by which these organizations can register themselves and protects their rights.”

Legislation regulating NGO activity is under discussion at the Shura Council, and has come in for criticism from many civil society figures and organizations.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm