Egypt hikes gas prices by up to 75 pct in IMF-backed austerity plan

A worker holds up a fuel pump nozzle after filling up the tank of a car. (Reuters)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Egypt hikes gas prices by up to 75 pct in IMF-backed austerity plan

  • The increases follow hikes to fuel, electricity and public transport prices

CAIRO: Egypt said on Saturday it was raising the price of natural gas for home and commercial use by up to 75 percent, the latest move in an IMF-backed austerity program that has left many Egyptians struggling to make ends meet.
The increases follow hikes to fuel, electricity and public transport prices that are part of a $12 billion IMF loan program signed in 2016 that aims to lure back investors and lift the economy battered by political turmoil since 2011.
The government statement published in the Official Gazette said that, effective Aug. 1, the price for consuming up to 30 cubic meters of gas had been set at 0.175 Egyptian pounds ($0.0098) per cubic meter, up from 0.100 pounds.
The price for consuming between 30 and 60 cubic meters was set at 0.250 pounds, up from 0.175 pounds, while consumption of more than 60 cubic meters was set at 0.300 pounds from 0.225 pounds.
The statement did not specify the timeframes over which the consumption levels apply. But officials said they covered the usual billing period, which is monthly in Egypt.
Price hikes under the three-year IMF program helped drive up Egypt’s annual urban consumer inflation rate to 14.4 percent in June. Analysts said the impact of cutting energy subsidies was feeding through to the broader economy faster than expected.

($1 = 17.8500 Egyptian pounds)


World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

Updated 55 min 13 sec ago
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World’s biggest sovereign fund worried about trade wars

  • The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter
  • Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China

OSLO: The managers of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, expressed concern Tuesday about global trade tensions, which could heavily impact its value.
The fund posted a positive return of 1.8 percent, or 167 billion kroner ($19.8 billion), in the second quarter, helping erase a loss of 171 billion kroner in January-March that was attributed to a volatile stock market.
The Government Pension Fund Global, which saw its total value swell to 8.33 trillion kroner by the end of June, manages the country’s oil revenues in order to finance Norway’s generous welfare state when its oil and gas wells run dry.
But Norway’s central bank, which runs the fund, said geopolitical and trade tensions presented a risk.
“It’s fair to say that increased trade barriers or even trade wars will not be beneficial for the fund as a long-term global investor,” Trond Grande, the deputy chief of Norges Bank Investment Management, told reporters.
Markets are worried about a trade dispute between the United States and China. Accusing Beijing of unfair competition, the US administration is considering slapping a new round of levies worth $200 billion on Chinese goods.
Talks between the two slated for Wednesday and Thursday aimed at resolving the dispute have however eased concerns somewhat.
Following US-Turkey tensions that sent the Turkish lira and the Istanbul stock market tumbling, the Norwegian fund said its assets there were worth less than the 23 billion kroner they were at the beginning of the year.
“We’ve seen the market rise for a long time, that there are different political and geopolitical events in the world that can affect the market, and we have to be prepared for the fact that (the value of) the fund can go down a lot,” Grande concluded.
The fund’s strong second quarter was attributed primarily to its share portfolio, which accounts for 66.8 percent of its investments and which rose by 2.7 percent.
Real estate holdings, which account for 2.6 percent of its holdings, rose by 1.9 percent, while bond investments, which represent 30.6 percent, remained flat.
Faced with falling oil revenues in recent years, the Norwegian government has been tapping the fund to finance public spending since 2015. But with oil prices recovering, the fund registered its first inflow in three years in June.