By Lesley Wroughton
WASHINGTON, April 19 The International Monetary
Fund and Egyptian finance officials are working to conclude
talks "as quickly as feasible" on a proposed $4.8 billion loan
deal to ease the country's deepening economic crisis, a senior
IMF official said on Friday.
"I don't have a date for when those discussions will be
completed precisely, but Egyptian authorities and our own team
are working diligently to try to bring that set of discussions
to a conclusion as quickly as feasible," IMF Director for the
Middle East and North Africa Masood Ahmed told reporters.
The talks are taking place on the sidelines of IMF and World
Bank meetings in Washington.
"Those discussions are both to make sure we have a complete
and full set of data to start with. The authorities are making
sure the data they have is the most recent and we will look at
that," Ahmed said.
"Also, we are working together with them to make sure the
program will address the challenges that face Egypt and that
will do so in a way that will protect the more vulnerable parts
of society, and that it will unleash what we all believe to be
the considerable economic potential of Egypt," he added.
An IMF deal will help shore up confidence in Egypt's economy
and reassure private investors and donors that the country is
committed to economic reforms, which include cutting fuel
subsidies and raising sales taxes.
Egypt has suffered two years of political instability since
a 2011 uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.
Qatar and Libya recently stepped in to provide loans to
Egypt. Russia agreed on Friday to consider giving Egypt a
substantial loan and more grain supplies, an aide to Russian
President Vladimir Putin said without elaborating.
"It is a financing need that Egypt faces for the next 12,
18, 24 months and any financing that is provided is very helpful
in meeting that need," Ahmed said, adding that the Egyptian
authorities are committed to a loan deal with the IMF.
Ahmed said a recovery in private investment in Egypt will be
the main driver of economic growth in the coming year and will
help ease high unemployment levels.