Minister calls for scrapping US assistance

Egypt can easily do away with US aid, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Fayza Abouelnaga said Monday.

The US comes in at the bottom of the ladder of countries that give grants or loans to Egypt, she said.

Addressing the People’s Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee, Abouelnaga said former US President George W. Bush reduced economic assistance to Egypt to US$200 million, an amount which current President Barack Obama raised to $250 million.

This amount is negligible compared to Egypt’s gross domestic product, Abouelnaga said.

The minister did not take into account the approximate $1.3 billion that the US government gives to Egypt in military aid.

In 1998, it was agreed that the US would reduce its assistance to Egypt by 5 percent annually over a period of 10 years until the aid reaches half its amount.

After the signing of the Camp David Accords, she said, Egypt received $850 million in annual loans from 1978 to 1983.

Since 1983, Egypt has been receiving the same amount, but in the form of grants.

Egypt currently owes the US as a result of this arrangement, which requires Egypt to pay $350 million every year in interest, amounting to a total of US$4 billion. Egypt is still paying the interest on the debt.

Abouelnaga added that none of the loans Egypt received have been wasted. Any unused funds from loans are returned to the loan giver, she said.

The minister referred to several massive projects that were financed from loans, such as the third metro line inaugurated recently, the Suez Canal Bridge and the Japanese University in Borg al-Arab.

Abouelnaga said Egypt suffered a financial crisis in 2001 when debts amounted to 31 percent of the GDP, exceeding the safe ceiling of 30 percent.

She said this percentage shrunk back to a much-safer 15 percent in 2011, prompting the World Bank to classify Egypt as a low-debt country.

Translated from MENA

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