* Egypt must endorse IMF deal to its own people, says
* $4.8 bln programme crucial to plug balance of payments
* Lagarde says IMF maintains U.S. growth forecast
By Joe Bavier
ABIDJAN, Jan 8 Egypt's government must endorse a
$4.8 billion IMF loan agreement and propose it to the Egyptian
people as its own as a step toward stabilising the Middle
Eastern nation's economy, the head of the world lender said on
Egypt concluded an initial agreement with the International
Monetary Fund in November but postponed conclusion of the deal
last month due to political unrest triggered by President
Mohamed Mursi's attempt to fast-track a new constitution.
The political strife sparked a rush to sell Egyptian pounds
in recent weeks, sending the currency to a record low
against the U.S. dollar and draining foreign reserves. The IMF
loan is crucial to plugging balance of payments and budget
"The IMF needs to have the commitment of the political
authorities that can actually endorse the programme, own it, and
propose it to the population as theirs," Christine Lagarde told
journalists during a visit to Ivory Coast.
Analysts view completion of the deal as vital to give the
Islamist government credibility with the markets.
The IMF's Middle East and Central Asia director, Masood
Ahmed, travelled to Cairo and met with Mursi on Monday.
"Based on what I've heard from my director of the Middle
East, we are at a good tipping point for that. And I'm pleased
that the mission will be resuming its activities on the ground
shortly," she said.
Speaking during a tour of Africa, Lagarde also commented on
last week's "fiscal cliff" deal in the United States, saying
that the compromise permitted the IMF to maintain its growth
outlook for the world's largest economy.
"We had a growth forecast of 2.1 percent for the United
States in 2013. With what has been agreed - properly implemented
of course - we will be within the parameters that we had set,"
However, she added that pending negotiations to raise the
country's borrowing limits - the so-called "debt ceiling" - and
sequestration posed looming risks.
"We certainly hope that these matters will be resolved
promptly and adequately in order to remove that Damocles sword
that is hanging over the U.S. economy," she said.