Graffiti against IMF loan on Tahrir pavement. Ahmed Hamed/Aswat Masriya
CAIRO, March 19 (Reuters) - Egypt's government expects to sign a deal with the International Monetary Fund by the end of June and to have received the first tranche of a $4.8 billion loan by then, the planning minister told Al-Ahram online on Tuesday.
More than two years of political upheaval have battered the economy, leaving Egypt in dire need of IMF funds to relieve a currency and budget crisis. The country's reserves of foreign currency have fallen to critically low levels.
Planning Minister Ashraf al-Araby did not say how big the first tranche of the IMF loan would be. He expected an IMF technical mission to arrive in Cairo in the coming days to complete talks on the deal.
Araby also said discussions earlier this week with a senior International Monetary Fund official did not deal with the idea of an emergency IMF loan to tide the country over until a full agreement can be concluded.
Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia department, held talks in Cairo on Sunday, saying discussions would continue in the coming weeks with the aim of reaching a deal on possible financial support.
An IMF deal will unlock billions of dollars in further support for Egypt. Araby said this would include $1 billion from the World Bank in the fiscal year that begins in July, as well as half a billion dollars from the African Development Bank and assistance from the European Union.
Egypt's reserves of foreign currency stood at $13.5 billion at the end of February, below the $15 billion level needed to cover three months of imports.
The government said last month it aimed to increase the reserves to $19 billion by the end of June, though Araby said the level might be less than that.