The government has officially agreed to sign a deal with the International Monetary Fund for a loan worth US$3.2 billion at a 1.2 percent interest rate, after months of wrangling over the terms of the deal.
Sources from the Finance Ministry, who declined to be named, said Thursday the first batch of the loan will be disbursed before the presidential election, and the second after the poll.
An IMF delegation headed by Masood Ahmed, the fund's regional director, is scheduled to visit Egypt in the second half of March to sign the agreement with the finance and planning and international cooperation ministries and the Central Bank of Egypt.
Samy Khelaf, an adviser to the finance minister for management of public debt, said Cairo had agreed with the IMF on all of the loan's technicalities, but wanted to wait until elections for both houses of Parliament were complete.
He stressed that the government's position on the loan crystallized after consulting and agreeing with various political forces, especially after the getting approval from the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, which recently agreed to borrowing from the IMF.
Receiving an IMF loan is like a certificate of confidence for the Egyptian economy, after which the government can obtain other loans from Arab and foreign countries, Khelaf said.
Cairo announced in January that it had formally asked the IMF for a $3.2 billion loan, saying it wanted the money as soon as possible and hoped an agreement would be signed within weeks.
The IMF has said that any agreement had to have broad political support within the country and be accompanied by financial commitments from other international donors.
Ahmed, who also headed an IMF delegation that visited Egypt on 16 and 17 January, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that his fund will not impose any special conditions on Egypt in exchange for granting the loan.
Translated from Al-Masry Al-Youm