* Govt plans stock market levy, flat corporate tax rate
* Plan seeks to reverse slide in currency reserves
* IMF deal will demand austerity as elections near
* Summary of plan gives no details on energy subsidies
* Political turmoil complicates economic problems
By Tom Perry and Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO, Feb 25 Egypt will reopen talks with the
IMF next month on a $4.8 billion loan, a minister said on
Monday, and the government laid out plans to reverse a slide in
currency reserves and tackle the dire state of public finances.
A revised government economic reform programme, essential
for securing a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund,
called for a levy on stock market transactions and a flat 25
percent tax rate for Egyptian companies, many of which are
struggling for survival in a national economic crisis.
But a summary of the plan released by the government did not
spell out plans for cutting subsidy spending - a political hot
potato with parliamentary elections due to begin in April. A
fifth of the state budget goes on energy subsidies alone and
tackling the issue is seen as crucial to securing the IMF loan.
Investment Minister Osama Saleh expressed hope that help was
on its way as Egypt battles with a falling currency and a budget
deficit soaring to unaffordable levels.
"There have been pledges of international and regional
support to Egypt and most of these are in progress," he told a
conference in Dubai. "Negotiations with the IMF over the $4.8
billion loan will resume in early March."
Cairo and the IMF agreed in principle last November on the
loan, based on an earlier version of the reform programme, but
talks were suspended in December at Egypt's behest due to street
violence. Any IMF deal would involve unpopular austerity
measures just as Egyptians vote in four-stage parliamentary
elections due to be held from April until late June.
Under the latest programme, the government will impose a
0.001 percent levy on stock market transactions, according to
excerpts of the programme seen by Reuters, and corporate tax
will be standardised at 25 percent.
Current rates are 20 and 25 percent, meaning tax bills for
some firms will rise at a time of great economic hardship.
The programme also seeks to end the alarming slide in
foreign currency reserves as the central bank has tried to prop
up the Egyptian pound in recent years. It targets reserves of
$19 billion by the end of June, climbing to $22.5 billion a year
Reserves tumbled to $13.6 billon in January from $36 billion
before the overthrow of president Hosni Mubarak in February
2011, and the Egyptian pound has fallen 8.2 percent since the
central bank began auctioning dollars at the end of December.
Economists expressed caution about the figures, and whether
Egypt could secure IMF help by the end of the financial year in
June. "They had their targets before and they didn't reach
them," said Mona Mansour, chief economist at CI Capital.
"Maybe they are targeting to have the IMF programme by then,
but I think it will be difficult. Other than that, they may have
an agreement with regional countries," she said.
Egypt has secured funding from Qatar in recent months but
this has not halted the fall in reserves or the drop in the
pound. On top of the economic crisis, Egypt is in political
turmoil with the Islamist government of President Mohamed Mursi
in conflict with the liberal and leftist opposition.
Some opposition politicians want to boycott the elections,
which are supposed to complete Egypt's transition to democracy
after Mubarak's fall, over a range of disputes including a new
constitution produced by an Islamist-dominated assembly.
Mansour noted that the loan talks had been repeatedly
delayed during the political turmoil. "The situation has to be
calmer politically," she said.
The revised reform programme confirmed the daunting budget
problems that the government faces. It targets a deficit for
this financial year of 189.7 billion Egyptian pounds ($28
billion), or a huge 10.9 percent of total economic output.
Even this assumes economic reforms are made and the deficit
would hit 12.3 percent of GDP without such action, it forecast.
The government gave scant details on personal income tax.
The threshold below which Egyptians pay the lowest rate tax
would be raised, but it gave no details of any changes in rates
paid by higher earners.