CAIRO Jan 19 Egypt's foreign reserves have
risen to $15.5 billion, helped by a deposit by Qatar to support
the economy, its finance minister said, although they are still
close to critical levels after being run down to defend Egypt's
The central bank put reserves at $15.015 billion at the end
of December. It has implemented a new regime for buying and
selling foreign currency and currency controls to try to stem a
fall in reserves, which have tumbled from $36 billion before the
uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
Finance Minister Al-Mursi Al-Sayed Hegazy told reporters
about the new reserve figure on Saturday without giving further
details about the deposit by Qatar, a generous donor to Egypt.
Qatar said earlier this month it had lent Egypt $2 billion
and given it $500 million outright. It has pledged to stand by
Egypt to help support the nation, which has been battered by
political turmoil and violence that has scared away investors.
Hegazy said reserves should rise further in future after
approval of a draft law allowing Egypt to issue sovereign
Islamic bonds, known as sukuk. The draft law was passed by
cabinet this week but needs the backing of the Islamist-led
upper house of parliament.
The minister said in December that Qatar had deposited $500
million, although the reserve figure for that month was still
around $15 billion, the same as at the end of November.
The central bank has said reserves have reached a critical
level. At $15 billion, reserves cover roughly three months of
Egypt has spent about $21 billion of its reserves since the
start of 2011 when the uprising against Mubarak erupted, plus
several billion dollars in additional aid and support from Qatar
and other donors to defend the Egyptian pound.
Cairo is negotiating a $4.8 billion loan from the
International Monetary Fund. After the deal was agreed in
principle in November, it was delayed after Egypt postponed some
unpopular tax rises viewed as needed to secure the IMF funds.
An IMF team is expected to return to Egypt in the coming
weeks for fresh discussions.