Egypt’s reform programme, implemented in coordination with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), ensures the country’s economy is well placed to navigate the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat said.
Minister Al-Mashat’s comments came during her participation at a virtual event on Tuesday entitled “COVID-19 Pandemic: An imminent opportunity for multilateralism”, organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt (AmCham).
Egypt entered the crisis with strong fiscal and foreign exchange buffers as 2019 remittances stood at $26.8bn. Tourism revenues for the same year stood at $13bn, while Suez Canal receipts at $5.9bn, she added.
She emphasised the government’s desire to continue with its progress in accelerating structural reforms despite the current pandemic.
Minister Al-Mashat added that the government is keen to emphasise its forward thinking and desire to protect all its citizens, including Egypt’s women, during the ongoing crisis. In a world first, Egypt issued a policy paper, entitled “Egypt’s Rapid Response to Women’s Situation during COVID-19 Outbreak”, focusing on how the pandemic will affect women. The country has also released a Women’s Policy Tracker that monitors all policies and measures related to women, and to support those policies with solid initiatives.
The Egyptian government’s key measures against the virus have aimed to curb the further spread of the virus, whilst also providing financial aid to ease economic burdens. This has included financial aid for irregular workers and liquidity for firms to survive the disruption.
The government plans to mitigate the pandemic’s impact on the irregular labour force through employment protection, legislation and unemployment benefits, the Egyptian minister said. The government is putting forward a social protection and safety agenda to minimise the negative impacts of the coronavirus.
The authorities are working on increasing financial inclusion and digital reform, whilst also working towards female economic empowerment, the minister said. She noted that the preferential interest rate on loans for small and medium-sized enterprises, industry, tourism, and housing for low-income and middle-class families has been reduced.
A new debt relief initiative for individuals at risk of default has also been announced, which will see marginal interest on debts under EGP 1m waived. This will be subject to the individual having already made 50% of the loan payment, Minister Al-Mashat said. She added that the regulations issued last year requiring banks to obtain detailed information of borrowers have been relaxed.
Additionally, global value chains which account for nearly half of world trade have been disrupted by factory shutdowns and the delayed resumption of operations, the minister said. She also said that global production has plunged on the back of investments having stopped. The weak investor and consumer confidence levels and the decline of spending have also affected global production.