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Sunday, 12 April 2020

Egypt could earmark more funding for covid-19 fight

Egypt’s commitment to insulating the economy from the impact of covid-19 is “open-ended” and could go above the EGP 100 bn in stimulus and bailout funding the Sisi administration has already committed, Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said in an interview with Al Arabiya on Thursday (watch, runtime: 14:38).

The administration has about EGP 70 bn in dry powder from the original round, having so far deployed about EGP 30 bn in funding — including some EGP 5 bn to the Health Ministry, EGP 3 bn to the Export Subsidy Fund, EGP 3 bn to seasonal workers, and expedited payments to state contractors and suppliers, Maait said. That figure suggests the state has more room to maneuver — and that it has even more freedom to act after last month’s surprise 300 bps interest rate cut.

Maait specifically noted tourism and aviation as industries likely to be allocated more funding as part of the bailout program.

The minister is effectively writing off the final quarter of the current fiscal year (2019-2020) from a revenue perspective, saying he expects state revenues could fall 25% or more in FY2019-2020. He cautioned that the ultimate impact on macro indicators will be entirely dependent on how long the covid-19 crisis lasts — and how severe it is.

Foreign holdings of Egyptian sovereign debt are down about 40% by our math as Maait noted the figure now stands at USD 13.5-14 bn, down from USD 24 bn last month. The outflows come as investors pulled a record USD 83 bn from emerging markets in March in a global risk-off.

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