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  • Saturday, June 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Struggling Egypt awash in dollars as World Bank offers fresh $6bn support

The World Bank Group said on Monday it intends to provide more than $6 billion of support over the coming three years to Egypt, which has been struggling with a foreign currency crunch and gaping budget and balance of payments deficits.
The World Bank Group said $3 billion will go towards government programmes and $3 billion to the private sector, all subject to the group’s board approval.

The announcement follows Egypt’s signing on March 6 of a loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund that expanded IMF support to Egypt by $5 billion and by an announcement on Sunday of $8.1 billion in financing from the European Union.
Egypt’s central bank on March 6 let the pound plummet and said it would allow the currency to trade freely. The currency had been fixed against the dollar for 12 months.

Some $3 billion of the World Bank financing will be distributed to the government and its programmes over three years, with the first $1 billion expected to arrive by the end of June, Egypt country director Stephane Guimbert told Reuters.

“Some significant part of that will go to budget support. and then we have a range of programmes on climate, on SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises), etc.,” Guimbert said.

Another $3 billion will be directed through the World Bank Group’s private sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), including through equity and loans, and will be made up partly by funds mobilised from other investors.

The financing is still subject to the group’s board approval, which is expected before the end of June, Guimbert said. “And then we’ll disburse as soon as we can after that.”
The World Bank programme will focus in part on helping state-owned enterprises “that are not sold, that remain within government control, and the way they are managed, including levelling the playing field with the private sector”, he said.

The World Bank funds will also help finance Egypt’s social protection project, Takafol and Karama, as well as water and agriculture programmes.

Egypt has been selling assets to boost the private sector and raise scarce hard currency, setting a target in 2022 to raise $10 billion annually over four years through private investment in state assets.

Egypt last month raised $35 billion by selling the development rights of the Ras El Hekma peninsula on the Mediterranean coast to the Emirati sovereign wealth fund ADQ.

The World Bank Group said its current operational portfolio in Egypt is more than $8 billion, comprising $6 billion from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, $1.9 billion from the IFC and $0.5 billion from the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency.

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