By David Lawder
WASHINGTON, Oct 27 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that a $12 billion loan program for Egypt should be ready for board approval in the next few weeks and insisted that it would not call for cuts to food subsidies.
"Progress has been made on a number of objectives and actions under that program in the subsequent period and we expect the program to come to the board within the next few weeks," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said at a news briefing.
Board consideration of the program depends on putting in place $5 billion to $6 billion in bilateral financing that will provide funds in the first year of the program to supplement about $4 billion in first-year funding from the IMF, Rice said.
"Egypt has made good progress to secure this financing, including contributions from China, Saudia Arabia and G7 countries," he said, without providing specific details of the contributions.
Additional progress is needed toward key reforms required in an IMF staff-level agreement with Egypt reached in July, Rice said, including steps to implement a recently passed budget and value-added tax, a government plan to reduce energy subsidies and to "move gradually" toward a more flexible exchange rate. (Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)