President Hosni Mubarak has warned that boosting Egyptian exports is a matter of "life and death" for the country's battered economy following the September 11 terror attacks.
"The president affirmed that exports are a question of life and death," said Information Minister Safwat Al-Sherif, quoted in Al-Ahram newspaper on Sunday, November 25.
Despite a decade of economic reforms aimed at producing 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 were petroleum, while imports totaled $16.4 billion, central bank data showed. In a cabinet meeting on Saturday, "the president affirmed the importance of the process of exports and the need to fill the deficit between imports and exports," Sherif said.
Mubarak shuffled his cabinet last Wednesday, reinforcing the role of the central bank, with the key objective of reducing imports and increasing exports. The pressure placed by the trade deficit on Egypt's foreign currency reserves has become more acute following the September 11 attacks on the United States, expected to have a serious impact on Egypt's major sources of hard currency such as tourism and Suez Canal revenues.
Earlier this month a top official forecast a drop in foreign currency revenues of $2.4 billion as a result of the attacks. 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, Cairo)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )