Egypt’s economy grew 5.2% in the first quarter of FY2017-18 from 3.4% in the same period last year, Planning Minister Hala El Said announced yesterday, reports Reuters. The government is targeting a growth rate of 5-5.25% for the full fiscal year.
The first quarter of the fiscal year also saw Egypt record its lowest primary budget deficit figure in a decade, according to a statement from the Ismail cabinet. The primary budget deficit dropped to 0.1% of GDP during the quarter, from 0.9% a year before. Results also show that Egypt, for the first time in years, achieved a primary surplus of around 0.2%. The overall budget deficit also shrunk to 1.9% of GDP, compared to 2.2% in the first quarter of the previous fiscal year. Government income also grew by 33% y-o-y, exceeding the 23% y-o-y growth in expenditures during the three-month period.
The IMF’s new Egypt boss, Subir Lall, had glowing things to say yesterday, noting that the nation’s economic reform program continues to pay off. He said in particular the drop in Egypt’s unemployment rate and rising FX reserves as other key metrics showing signs of improvement. Lall also praised the central bank’s monetary policy, saying he approved of the Monetary Policy Committee’s decision last week to leave our ridiculously high interest rates on hold, saying they will continue to keep inflation levels stable, Al Masry Al Youm reports.
(That last bit simply makes us want to scream: INTEREST RATES ARE NOT AN EFFECTIVE MEANS OF TRANSMITTING MONETARY POLICY IN A NATION WHERE AT LEAST 70% OF THE POPULATION IS UNBANKED. We get it, Mr. Lall. You let us here in Egypt off the hook and the IMF undercuts its bargaining position in the next market it needs to bail out — a market where, presumably, the majority of folks are banked. But still: Current interest rates are great for the carry trade, not so much for those of us looking to grow real businesses that create jobs and economic opportunities.)
Lall also had warnings on possible threats to the progress of the reform program. He pointed to regional instability and the rise in oil as some of the biggest risks facing the program. On the latter, he said that the government may need to reassess its spending if oil prices continue to rise. In an interview with Al Shorouk, Lall added that he does not see next year’s presidential election posing a risk to the reform agenda.
And speaking of the IMF, Egypt is set to receive its USD 2 bn loan tranche from the Fund in December, Finance Minister Amr El Garhy said yesterday. “The payment will bring total disbursements under the program to about USD 6 bn,” Reuters notes.