Egypt to get $8 billion IMF bailout after removing currency controls 

Egypt has successfully negotiated an expansion of its International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout package to $8 billion, following the government’s bold decision to allow the Egyptian pound to plummet to an unprecedented low against the US dollar. 

This critical development marks a significant step forward in Egypt’s quest to navigate its most challenging economic turmoil in recent decades. 

On Wednesday, the IMF acknowledged Egypt’s commitment to economic reform, praising its “decisive steps to move toward a credible flexible exchange rate regime.” 

This acknowledgement came after the Egyptian central bank dramatically devalued the pound by 40% and substantially increased interest rates to mitigate a severe foreign currency shortfall. 

The statement read: 

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  • We are pleased to announce that the Egyptian authorities and the IMF team have reached staff-level agreement on the economic policies needed to complete the first and second reviews of the EFF arrangement. 
  • “Amid significant macroeconomic challenges that have become more complex to manage with the impact of the recent conflict in Gaza on tourism and Suez Canal receipts, staff also considered the authorities’ request for an augmentation of IMF support to Egypt from SDR 2.35 billion (equivalent to about US$ 3 billion) to SDR 6.11 (equivalent to about US$ 8 billion). This agreement is subject to approval by the IMF Executive Board. 
  • “The comprehensive policy package seeks to preserve debt sustainability, restore price stability, and reinstate a well-functioning exchange rate system while continuing to push forward deep structural reforms to promote private sector-led growth and job creation. 

Condition for bailout 

By embracing a flexible exchange rate policy and permitting the market to determine the pound’s value, Egypt fulfilled a crucial condition set by the IMF.

This adjustment was essential for the country to access additional funds from the IMF, building on a preliminary $3 billion support package provided in 2022. 

The pound’s depreciation to over 50 against the dollar highlights the gravity of Egypt’s economic predicament, especially considering the official rate hovered around 31 to the dollar for nearly a year, contrasting sharply with its significantly higher valuation on the parallel market. 

Despite previous hesitations to further devalue the pound, the central bank’s recent actions signal a commitment to a more open and market-driven economic policy.

This approach is anticipated to harmonise the official and black market exchange rates while addressing inflation targets through increased interest rates. 

Egypt’s reforms 

With an inflation rate nearing 30% as of January, the Egyptian government has exercised caution in managing the pound’s depreciation to prevent exacerbating household financial strain. 

However, a landmark $35 billion investment from ADQ, an Abu Dhabi-based investment entity, has offered Egypt a lifeline.

This is the largest single investment in the nation’s history. This influx of capital has equipped the central bank with the necessary resources to stabilise the currency post-deregulation. 

Despite the reforms, Egypt’s economic landscape is further complicated by regional dynamics, including the impact of Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza a situation that underscores Egypt’s pivotal role in facilitating aid and diplomatic efforts.

Additionally, maritime threats in the Red Sea have adversely affected Egypt’s revenue from the Suez Canal, adding another layer to its economic challenges. 

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