IMF gives Egyptian economic reforms $2bn ‘stamp of approval’

An Egyptian baker is seen beside a vegetable market in Cairo, Egypt. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017

IMF gives Egyptian economic reforms $2bn ‘stamp of approval’

LONDON: The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) agreement to provide $2 billion to Egypt as part of a three-year $12 billion loan agreement is a stamp of approval of economic reforms being pushed through under the terms of the deal, commentators said.
The latest payment, which remains subject to IMF executive board approval, will bring total disbursements under the agreement to $6 billion, Reuters reported.
In a statement released following a recent visit to Egypt the fund said, “Egypt’s economy continues to perform strongly, and reforms that have already been implemented are beginning to pay off in terms of macroeconomic stabilization and the return of confidence.”
“While the reform process has required sacrifices in the short term, seizing the current moment of opportunity to transform Egypt into a dynamic, modern, and fast-growing economy will improve the living standards and increase prosperity for all Egyptians.”
Last year, Egypt floated its currency and reduced energy subsidies as part of an ambitious economic reform program outlined under the terms of the loan.
Since then, the Egyptian pound has approximately halved in value and inflation has soared to record highs in what is widely acknowledged to have been a challenging adjustment period.
During a panel discussion on Egypt at the MENA Britain Trade Expo 2017 in London held Friday, Mohamed Farid Saleh, the executive chairman of the Egyptian Exchange, said resolving the fiscal deficit is “not something that can be achieved with a magic wand” but pointed to short-term gains, including easing in inflation moving forward.
Speaking to Arab News ahead of the session, he said economic performance had proved “resilient,” citing the 4.2 percent growth of the Egyptian economy in the fiscal year ending June 2017, exceeded projections of 3.5 percent.
“The reform measures took place despite difficulties on several fronts and the upcoming benefits and potential gains are evident.”
“The government of Egypt is committed to the reform plan to put Egypt on track when it comes to macro-economic settings and macro-economic balances,” he said.
Karim T. Helal, chairman of ADIB Capital, the investment banking arm of Abu Dhabi Investment Bank in Egypt, said the reforms have been difficult but necessary.
“The immediate-term effect has been very painful for the populace in terms of devaluation and the subsequent inflation,” he said.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow but we had to do it and we are at least showing signs that things are finally heading the right way.”
He described the IMF’s announcement as a “stamp of approval” for Egypt’s progress under the terms of the agreement.
“The fact that the $2 billion has been released now will indicate to the international investment community that the plan put forward at the outset is actually going according to expectations and that Egypt has indeed delivered what it was supposed to deliver,” he said.
Rana Adawi, managing director of Acumen Asset Management, said that the decision came as no surprise in light of Egypt’s success in implementing the required reforms.
“It’s a vote of confidence from the international community that we are committed to change,” she said.
Despite the disturbance created by the currency devaluation last year, the benefits of the move are starting to be felt as businesses take the opportunity to move into the export market, Adawi said.
“The flotation of the Egyptian pound made the country become very competitive in some sectors,” she said.
“You can see the finances of small businesses in the industrial sector going from loss-making to profit-making as a result of the flotation.”
Speaking during the Egypt panel discussion, Helmy Ghazi, managing director and head of global banking at HSBC, said: “The substance of reforms in Egypt are actually quite impressive and we at HSBC are very confident in the outlook and the economic prospects for Egypt.”

Airbus sees regional demand for A220

Updated 8 min 23 sec ago

Airbus sees regional demand for A220

  • Airbus acquired a majority stake in the C-Series program in October officially rebranding it in April to the A220
  • The US low-cost carrier JetBlue last week became the first purchaser of the aircraft since its rebrand

FARNBOROUGH: Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz has played up the prospects for the Bombardier C-Series aircraft in the Middle East and beyond, hoping carriers will use the single-aisle plane to expand routes.

The European plane maker acquired a majority stake in the C-Series program in October, officially rebranding it in April to the A220, strengthening its offering in the smaller jet sector in competition with arch-rival Boeing.

“Yes, I believe we’ll see orders in every region,” Schulz said when asked about the prospects for Middle Eastern orders for the plane.

“There are many people across the Middle East who are looking at the opportunity to integrate the A220 as a feeder to leverage their routes up to a point where maturity can be on with the single aisle.”

Schulz spoke to Arab News on the second day of the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow, which marked the rebranded A220’s first public appearance.

The US low-cost carrier JetBlue last week became the first purchaser of the aircraft since its rebrand, with an order for 60 of the single-aisle planes.

Airbus on Tuesday announced a commitment from what it described as “a new US airline startup” for 60 A220-300 aircraft, with deliveries due to begin in 2021.

The new airline is backed up by a group of experienced investors led by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, who is also an investor in TAP in Portugal and the controlling shareholder in Brazil’s Azul airlines.

The single-aisle market is expected to dominate commercial plane orders over the next 20 years, according to forecasts released by Boeing on Tuesday.

The US manufacturer expects demand for 31,360 single-aisle planes — representing nearly three quarters of total orders — over the period, an increase of 6.1 percent compared with similar forecasts published last year.

“This $3.5 trillion market is driven in large part by the continued growth of low-cost carriers, strong demand in emerging markets, and increasing replacement demand in markets such as China and Southeast Asia,” Boeing said.

In the face of such growth prospects, Boeing earlier this month agreed to takeover the commercial jetliner business of Brazil’s Embraer, a specialist in smaller passenger planes, in order to better compete better with Airbus in the segment.

Schulz downplayed suggestions of a downturn in orders from Middle East carriers, suggesting that any slowdown in orders from the region’s larger players would come alongside an uptick from other carriers.

“There might be a little bit of a slowdown for some airlines, and there is also some growth for others,” Schulz said.

“We are serving the market, and what we need to do is just continue to serve the market and take the opportunities and the challenges where they are and just deal with them.”

Schulz said that Airbus was “moving forward” with the details of its $16 billion A380 deal with Emirates struck in January.

The deal with the Dubai-based carrier for 36 additional superjumbo planes, the last major deal agreed by Schulz’s predecessor John Leahy, was seen as saving the beleaguered aircraft program, which has struggled to secure new orders.

“Clearly the relationship is fantastic,” Schulz said, having met with Emirates CEO Tim Clark on Monday.

“Clearly they have put a lot of emphasis on the opportunity that their A380 fleet is giving them. They need the plane, we need the plane to be delivered, and yes, it’s all aligned.”