Egypt cabinet approves draft budget targeting 5-6 pct growth

Wednesday 30-03-2016 08:31 PM

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail presents government programme before House of Representatives, Mar. 27, 2016 - photo from state TV

By Reuters

CAIRO, March 30 (Reuters) - Egypt's government approved on Wednesday a draft state budget for 2016-17, targeting economic growth of 5-6 per cent versus 4.4 per cent in 2015-16, Planning Minister Ashraf al-Arabi said.

Egypt, which relies heavily on imports, has been battling a shortage of dollars since an uprising in 2011 that drove away tourists and foreign investors, two big sources of hard currency. It devalued the pound this month, which economists said would encourage foreign investment but risks driving up inflation and hurting the poor.

Arabi projected total gross domestic product of 3.3 trillion Egyptian pounds ($372 billion) in 2016-17 and said the government would need to attract 530 billion pounds in investments, up 16.5 per cent, to reach that goal.

The deficit is projected to reach 9.9 per cent, Finance Minister Amr al-Garhy said at a news conference with Arabi. He added that the deficit had expanded to 11.5 per cent this year.

The government will now send the draft budget to President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and parliament for final approval.

The government aims to reduce unemployment to 12 per cent, Arabi added. Unemployment stood at 12.8 per cent in December.

The government had "not taken a decision until now" over making a deal with the International Monetary Fund, Arabi said.

The newly appointed Garhy said the government expected 627 billion pounds in revenue including 434 billion from taxes such as the new value-added tax (VAT) which is yet to be implemented.

Total revenues in the current financial year stood at 520 billion pounds, Garhy said. The government plans to spend 936 billion pounds in 2016-17 versus 829 billion in 2015-16.

The government will spend 210 billion pounds on subsidies next year and 228 billion on wages.

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail promised tough action to restore growth with a government programme aimed at reducing the deficit and protecting the poor as anger mounts over a deteriorating economy.

He said the growing population of 90 million people had strained public services, while political instability since the 2011 uprising had hit growth and foreign investment.

A number of difficult reforms have been delayed, from a VAT that would increase government revenues and a civil service law that would trim the country's public workforce, to an ambitious plan to wean the country off costly energy subsidies that have been scaled back.

($1 = 8.8799 Egyptian pounds)

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