Egypt wins $ 8 bn Saudi and UAE aid, names PM

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Updated 17 July 2013

Egypt wins $ 8 bn Saudi and UAE aid, names PM

Egypt named an interim prime minister yesterday and Gulf states including Saudi Arabia poured in $ 8 billion in aid, as the biggest Arab nation sought ways out of a crisis after the army ousted the president last week. Interim head of state Adly Mansour announced a faster-than-expected timetable to hold elections in about six months. 
Hazem el-Beblawi, a liberal economist and former finance minister, was named interim prime minister. 
Former UN diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei was named deputy president for foreign affairs.
News quickly followed of $ 8 billion in grants, loans and fuel from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Saudi Arabia approved $ 5 billion in aid to Egypt and the UAE has offered $ 3 billion in desperately needed support for the economy .
The Saudi funds comprise a $ 2 billion central bank deposit, $ 2 billion in energy products, and $ 1 billion in cash, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said.
The UAE will make a $ 1 billion grant to Egypt and a $ 2 billion loan, state news agency WAM said. 
The $ 2 billion loan would take the form of an interest-free deposit with Egypt's central bank, WAM said.
"The UAE stands by Egypt and its people at this stage and trusts the choices of its people," WAM quoted National Security Adviser Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed as saying.
Sheikh Hazza and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed flew to Cairo in a demonstration of support.


Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

Updated 06 June 2020

Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

  • Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon
  • The UN food agency said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items

BEIRUT: Syria’s pound hit record lows on the black market Saturday trading at over 2,300 to the dollar, less than a third of its official value, traders said, ahead of new US sanctions.
Three traders in Damascus told AFP by phone that the dollar bought more than 2,300 Syrian pounds for the first time, though the official exchange rate remained fixed at around 700 pounds to the greenback.
After nine years of war, Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon.
Last month, the central bank warned it would clamp down on currency “manipulators.”
Analysts said concerns over the June 17 implementation of the US Caesar Act, which aims to sanction foreign persons who assist the Syrian government or help in post-war reconstruction, also contributed to the de fact devaluation.
Zaki Mehchy, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, said foreign companies — including from regime ally Russia — were already opting not to take any risks.
With money transactions requiring two to three weeks to implement, “today’s transactions will be paid after June 17,” he said.
Heiko Wimmen, Syria project director at the conflict tracker Crisis Group, said that with the act coming into force, “doing business with Syria will become even more difficult and risky.”
Both analysts said the fall from grace of top business tycoon Rami Makhlouf despite being a cousin of the president was also affecting confidence.
“The Makhlouf saga is spooking the rich,” Wimmen said.
After the Damascus government froze assets of the head of the country’s largest mobile phone operator and slapped a travel ban on him, the wealthy feel “nobody is safe,” he said.
They are thinking “you better get your assets and perhaps yourself out preparing for further shakedowns,” he said.
Mehchy said the impact of the pound’s decline and ensuing price hikes on Syrians would be “catastrophic.”
Most of Syria’s population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations, and food prices have doubled over the past year.
The UN food agency’s Jessica Lawson said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items such as rice, pasta and lentils.
“These price increases risk pushing even more people into hunger, poverty and food insecurity as Syrians’ purchasing power continues to erode,” the World Food Programme spokeswoman said.
“Families may be forced to cut the quality and quantity of food they buy.”