Powell says US will boost Egypt's battered economy
The United States is seeking to hasten new cooperation programs to help shore up Egypt's ailing economy, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday, November 29.
"We are aware that Egypt is having some financial and economic difficulty now (with) the drop in tourism and we are looking at ways that we can accelerate some of our economic cooperation and other programs," Powell said after meeting at the State Department with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher. "We want to be as responsive as we can."
The State Department said after a November 2 visit by Egyptian Minister of Economy and Foreign Trade Yousef Boutros-Ghali that it would boost efforts to help as Egypt struggles to cope with a decline in tourism due to terrorism fears. One method of assistance is a US-Egypt free trade agreement, the department said then, without elaborating.
Powell did not mention such a possibility Thursday, but his remarks followed dire comments from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who said this week that boosting exports is a matter of "life and death" for the Egypt's economy.
Despite a decade of economic reforms to develop an export-driven economy, Egypt ran up a trade deficit of $9.35 billion in fiscal year 2000-2001, according to the Egyptian central bank. Exports totaled $7.1 billion, of which $2.6 billion came from petroleum, while imports totaled $16.4 billion, it said.
Losses in revenue by Egypt's tourism industry and the Suez Canal are likely to compound further the country's foreign currency woes, with a top official predicting earlier this month a $2.4 billion drop in foreign currency revenue this year. Tourism revenues would slump to $3.2 billion in 2001, down from a record $4.3 billion last year, while transport revenues will drop by $433 million in the air and maritime sectors, including 184 million lost by the Suez Canal alone, the official predicted. — (AFP, Washington)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)