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
0

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.”


Philippines posts 15 percent drop in cash remittance from Middle East

Updated 23 September 2018
0

Philippines posts 15 percent drop in cash remittance from Middle East

  • There has been a 15 percent decrease in remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in the Middle East, with fund transfers from Libya and Israel falling the most at 73 percent and 61 percent — Central Bank of the Philippines
  • Remittances from Kuwait fell by 20.4 percent despite resumption of OFW deployment; Bahrain showed negative 22.9 percent; transfers from Oman dropped by 38.3 percent; and Saudi Arabia showed a slide of 10.4 percent

MANILA: Cash remittance from Filipino workers (OFW), particularly those in the Middle East, saw a steep decline from January to July this year, figures from the Central Bank of the Philippines (BSP) show.
A lawmaker noted that even the lifting of the ban on deployment of Filipinos to Kuwait last May failed to stop the remittance plunge.
Based on latest BSP data, there was 15 percent decrease in remittances from OFWs in the Middle East, although fund transfers from Libya and Israel fell the most at 73 percent and 61 percent respectively.
With that, Rep. Henry Ong, chairman of the House Committee Chair on Banks & Financial Intermediaries, said the policy shift in OFW deployment priorities must happen “sooner rather than later.”
“Filipinos are being held hostage by armed groups in Libya. Israel recently welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte on a brief visit. However, the remittances from these two countries pale in comparison with those from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman, which were in the high double-digit percentages decline,” he said.
Remittances from Kuwait fell by 20.4 percent despite the resumption of OFW deployment last May. Bahrain showed negative 22.9 percent, transfers from Oman dropped by 38.3 percent and Saudi Arabia showed a slide of 10.4 percent. 
Qatar is the exception. The remittances decline from Filipino workers there was only 6.3 percent.
The Leyte second district representative pointed out: “There should not even be Filipinos in Libya because the security situation there is horrible, but still Filipinos go because that is where they have found jobs on their own.
“OFWs clearly have bleak and low-paying job prospects here in the Philippines because our wages are way below what they can earn abroad, so we have no choice but to deploy them elsewhere, to countries that will pay them well and respect their rights as migrant workers and as people of varied gender.” .
For this to happen, Ong said the priority list of alternative countries “must include those states that are signatories to the international conventions on human rights, labor, social security, and migrant workers.
“The other criterion would be the economic growth prospects of the target host countries because that will determine how well they will be compensated for their services. OFWs will go where they are respected, wanted, and paid well.” 
Ong lamented, though, that “it does not seem the concerned top officials have what it takes to help OFWs find better jobs in new host countries.
“They are just doing bureaucratic procedures and damage control on the problems that keep cropping up, but we do not see systemic, long-term solutions. Suffering through all that are the OFWs.” 
Meanwhile, aside from the decrease in cash remittance, the Philippines also suffered a decline in deployment of OFWs in 2017 after 10 years of continuous growth.
Recruitment consultant and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani, citing statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administrstion (POEA), said deployment of OFWs to 180 countries went down by 9 percent in 2017 compared ith the previous year. The year 2016, Geslani said, was a banner year of deployment for OFWs with total deployment hitting more than two million.
POEA records show that only 1,992,746 OFWs were deployed in 2017. Geslani said this is the first time after 10 years of continuous increase starting in 2008 with 1,236,613 deployment; 2009 with 1,422,382; 2010 with 1,476,826; 2011 with 1,687,463; 2012 with 1,802,031; 2013 with 1,826,804; 2014 with 1,832,668; 2015 with 1,841,205; and 2016 with 2,112,331.
Geslani said the decrease may be attributed to actors, such as the decline in the hiring of new workers to Saudi Arabia, from 219,134 in 2016 down to 163,238 in 2017. 
A decrease in the number of new hires was also noted in the rest of the top ten OFW destinations, which include Kuwait, Qatar, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the UAE, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Oman.
“Another reason for the decline is the increasing shift of Saudi Arabia to employ more citizens to work in companies and malls as part of its ‘Saudization’,” Geslani continued.
In addition, more major projects in the Kingdom have been shelved or delayed, resulting in the exodus of more than 30,000 Filipino skilled workers in construction, maintenance services and oil industries, he added. “Crude oil, which has stayed in the $70-80 level, has prevented Middle East countries from going on construction and infrastructure projects, except for Qatar which is preparing for the football World Cup in 2022.” 
Even the household service workers sector also dropped by 8 percent in 2017 owing to internal controls implemented by the Philippine labor officers in the Middle East, Geslani said.
For 2018, he predicts that deployment of household service workers is not expected to go beyond the 200,000 mark with the deployment ban imposed in Kuwait resulting in the loss of 40,000 jobs.