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Wednesday, 5 September 2018

Is debt control now the most significant fiscal policy of the Madbouly Cabinet?

** #1 Managing the public debt is now at the top of the Madbouly Cabinet’s fiscal priority list. Finance Minister Mohamed Maait confirmed his ministry plans to set a limit on foreign borrowing, including from major foreign institutions. While he did not reveal specifics, Maait stressed at the opening day of a Euromoney conference in Cairo yesterday that debt control is now one of the top fiscal policies of the government’s agenda. “On debt strategy, there is no one single solution. We are working on creating a package to eventually reach our targets,” Maait said, according to Reuters. “One of the ways is to put a limit on what you’re going to borrow, internally or externally. You want to grow, you want to finance the growth, so either you have enough funds for your growth or you’re going to have to borrow. … We will send the government within weeks a plan to manage the public debt, including putting a cap on external borrowing,” he said.

FinMin confirms canceled T-bill auction: Maait’s statement comes as the ministry confirmed in a statement yesterday (pdf) that it canceled a sale of EGP 3.5 bn worth of three- and seven-year T-bills on Monday. The yields demanded at the sale were “not within the logical limits,” the ministry said, indicating that the impact of an escalating emerging market sell-off is also a key driver for the decision.

Background: Maait first suggested this past weekend that he might cap new borrowing when he suggested that the government was working on a comprehensive fiscal strategy. Vice Minister of Finance Ahmed Kouchouk suggested that the strategy would include the ministry being brought in on all loan negotiations that require a government guarantee. Ministry sources told us that the strategy would also see the tenor of government bond issuances limited to medium-to-long term issuances. There had even been talk of cancelling foreign currency-denominated bond issuances this year.

Ittihadiya following debt control discussion: President Abdel Fattah El Sisi will meet with members of the Madbouly cabinet this month to discuss its strategy to contain public debt, Maait said yesterday in an interview with Extra News (watch, runtime: 31:22). Maait explained that public debt had risen extensively to help bolster the economic reform agenda.

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