IMF to resume talks with Egypt in February

The International Monetary Fund's meetings with Egyptian officials over a financial support program will continue into February, an IMF official said at a Washington, DC press conference Wednesday.

A delegation from the IMF left Cairo Wednesday after conducting talks with Egyptian officials on Monday and Tuesday.

An IMF team will continue working in Cairo and Washington in the coming weeks in an attempt to reach an agreement over a rescue program to help tame Egypt's growing deficit, said IMF Middle East Director Massoud Ahmed, who led the talks.

“Egypt's economy, despite its solid and sound fundamentals, is facing a number of difficult challenges, which have to be addressed through an economic program that safeguards macroeconomic stability and creates conditions for a strong recovery,” said Ahmed in a statement.

“The program developed by the Egyptian authorities and its key policies are currently being discussed with emerging political parties to ensure broad political support,” the statement continued. “This should help reduce uncertainty and boost confidence in the program's successful implementation.”

Egypt's economy and government coffers have suffered deeply since the 25 January revolution broke out last year, which particularly affected the tourism industry.

Talks between Egypt and the IMF come seven months after the ruling military council turned down a US$5.2 billion assistance package offer from the IMF and World Bank, reflecting the council's reluctance to take on a large amount of foreign debt and potential conditions.

Foreign aid is a sensitive issue in Egypt, where national pride is strong. The IMF is expected to ask the Egyptian government for assurances on curbing state spending — a potentially explosive request in a country with widespread poverty and need for social services.

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