Last updated: 13 March, 2012

Egypt budget deficit not as bad as announced, says the finance minister

Egypt’s finance minister said on Tuesday that the government deficit was not as bad as announced a day earlier, but the figure still exceeds what had been forecast for the fiscal year ending in June.

On Monday, ministry official Abdel Aziz Tantawi said the budget deficit will grow to 150 billion pounds ($24 billion). That compared with an estimate of 134 billion pounds when the current year’s budget was finalised.

But Finance Minister Mumtaz Said said recent measures to get the deficit under control “had succeeded,” and that the shortfall would be only 144 billion pounds.

His remarks come as Cairo is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund for a $3.2 billion loan to shore up its economy, which has suffered since the uprising that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak in February last year.

The revolt led to a sharp economic slowdown after years of annual growth of between five and seven percent and delivered a major blow to the lucrative tourism sector, which is still struggling to recover.

The economy took another beating as a result of rising public spending, including the costs of a multi-phase parliamentary election concluded earlier this year and of a two-stage presidential election due in May and June, MENA said.

Egypt’s foreign currency reserves fell from $36 billion at the start of the year to $15.5 billion at the end of February, according to the central bank.