Egyptian government debt surges in 2018

CAIRO, May 21 (Reuters) - Egypt’s government debt surged to around $339 billion in the year to end-December, the central bank said on Tuesday, but economists say the borrowing remains within relatively safe limits.

The government’s foreign debt rose by 16.6 percent to $96.61 billion while domestic debt increased by 20.25 percent to 4.108 trillion Egyptian pounds ($242 billion).

Economists say much of the foreign debt is relatively easy to roll over because it is owed to friendly lenders such as Gulf governments or the African Development Bank and the World Bank.

“It’s well within normal levels,” said Allen Sandeep, head of research at Naeem Holding. “It will drop as a percentage of GDP going forward.”

External debt equalled 35.1 percent of GDP, the bank said.

The government has been gradually regaining control of its finances after signing a restructuring agreement with the IMF in November, 2016. It recently began working to lengthen the maturities of its debt. (Reporting by Ehab Farouk and Patrick Werr, editing by Ed Osmond)