Adonis Diaries

International Monetray Fund (IMF) extends a costly loan to Egypt: Any hidden restrictions?

Posted on: August 29, 2012

International Monetray Fund (IMF) extends a costly loan to Egypt: The hidden restrictions

President Mursi’s bid for a $4.8 billion loan is raising questions as to what the exact benefits of increasing Egypt’s debt will be and the likely long-term repercussions on the economic situation.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde (2nd L and bent over) checks some pyramid stones next to security guards while listening to a guide’s explanation as she tours the pyramids in Giza, at the end of her visit to Egypt, 22 August 2012. (Photo: Reuters – Asmaa Waguih)

The Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt issued a statement Thursday opposing the IMF loan and questioning the lack of information about “the extent to which the Egyptian economy needs this massive amount of dollars.”

The group protested that there had been no discussion of alternative ways of financing public spending, adding that the government had obtained foreign loans amounting to $6 billion over the past year without any democratic oversight. Governments appointed by the military since the revolution had also borrowed record amounts from Egyptian banks, it said, and “it is not known how they were spent.”

The campaign added that neither Mursi nor his party had explained how the measures they would adopt to secure the loan would differ from “the policies of impoverishment pursued by Hosni Mubarak for 30 years.”

It noted that its declared purpose was to cover the budget deficit rather than invest in social justice and employment, but that the loan would put further pressure on the budget in the long run by increasing the debt servicing and repayment burdens.

Bisan Kassab published a translation from the Arabic Edition in the Lebanese daily Alakhbar, and posted it on August 24, 2012 under “The Hidden Costs of Egypt’s IMF Loan”

Cairo – There have been some unexpected reactions from Egyptian political forces to the multi-billion dollar loan which President Mohammed Mursi is trying to secure from the International Monetary Fund in the next few months.

Opposition to the loan has been voiced by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) from which Mursi hails. It objected to the lack of available information about the terms of the proposed deal.

Abdul-Hafez Sawi of the FJP’s economy committee explained that the party still holds the view it took when the loan was proposed to parliament by the military-appointed government of Kamal al-Ganzouri.

Sawi said: “We still don’t know anything about the program under which Egypt will get the loan or the measures and steps that will be taken to cut government spending, reform fiscal policy and collect unpaid taxes.  We need to consider who will bear the burden of repayment.” With the amount to be borrowed now being put at $4.8 billion rather than the original $3.8 billion

The FJP did not take issue with the loan on ideological grounds, given the Islamic prohibition on usury. Sawi argued that it is permissible to pay interest on loans under the expediency provisions of Islamic law, especially when alternative support from fellow Muslims is unavailable – “for example, when the wealth of the Gulf is spent on buying palaces in Paris rather than helping the poor on the Comoros Islands.”

Sawi added that he hoped “to propose Islamic ways of providing finance to the international institutions.”

The Nour Party, the political arm of the Salafi movement and one of the most doctrinaire of the Islamist parties seems to have become more pragmatic after a year and a half of direct engagement in politics since the revolution.

Abdul Halim al-Gammal, who sat for the Nour party in the upper chamber of parliament’s finance and economy committee, explained the thinking behind its backing of the IMF loan:

“Any loan that advantages the lender in the context of dealings between individuals is usury. But it is different when it relates to international institutions, because the reason for the religious prohibition – exploitation – does not apply. If the nation were to shun all international transactions whose nature it does not have the power to change, it would squander major opportunities.”

The liberal Wafd party, which held the third largest bloc of seats in parliament, called for the deal to be concluded with the IMF as soon as possible. The party’s finance spokesman, Fakhri al-Fiqqi, said it wanted the loan’s economic program extended from one-and-a-half to three years “so as to change it from an emergency program into an extended financing facility.”

Fiqqi, a former IMF staffer, said he hoped this would facilitate the introduction of difficult structural reforms in Egypt, such as the gradual elimination of consumer subsidies, “starting with the introduction of a coupon system, and eventually ending all subsidies, in exchange for raising salaries, for example.”

The business community also enthused about the prospect of an IMF loan.

Hani Geneina, macroeconomics analyst with investment bank Pharos, said: “Many clients have started returning to the treasury bond and equity markets since the resumption of negotiations with the IMF after a halt of several months. The final signing is bound to mean an inflow of foreign investments in the longer term because of what the loan will mean in terms of confidence in the Egyptian economy and putting an end to fears that it could be joining the bankruptcy train like Greece,”

But other saw things differently.

Political objections to the loan are not confined to concerns about its social impact. Constitutional and legal issues would also be raised if Mursi were to use the legislative powers he has assumed to push through the loan before a new parliament is in place.

That would amount to ratifying an international agreement, which is unambiguously the role of the legislature, explained Supreme Constitutional Court judge Tahani a-Gabali. It would amount to denying the public any oversight over the deal, and raise fears about the near-absolute powers that have been concentrated in the president’s hands.

 

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August 2012
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