Cairo, Jun 29 (efe-epa).- Egypt’s president on Monday presided over a virtual ceremony to inaugurate two airports as the government announced multibillion dollar investments in construction after receiving two credit lines from the International Monetary Fund to counter the coronavirus.
During the event, presided over by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouly confirmed the government plans to invest $18.5 billion in infrastructure during the upcoming fiscal year, which starts on 1 July.
Madbouly on Monday revised downwards to 4 percent the economic growth forecast for this fiscal year set earlier at 4.2 percent by Finance Minister Mohamed Meit.
This figure, however, is “high in comparison” with other countries, the premier said.
“Large investments must be injected into the country to ensure that the construction, industrial and agriculture sectors continue to operate and that the low rate of employment we have attained is not affected,” he said.
During the event, the government listed the “achievements” the country has made since 2013.
A total of $278 billion has been invested in several sectors in an “unprecedented effort,” Madbouly said.
One of the government’s flagship projects is the new administrative capital: a city the size of Chicago that has been built just east of Cairo.
The new administrative capital has its own airport – which was inaugurated virtually on Monday due to the coronavirus epidemic – but it is not clear when it will become operational.
The first test flight at the airport, which was ready a year ago, was made on 9 July.
During the event, the Sphinx International Airport was inaugurated over a year after it started domestic flight operations.
The coronavirus did not halt Egypt’s megaprojects. Rather, it prompted the government to ask the IMF for help to deal with the pandemic that has severely hit the tourism industry, one of the country’s main sources of income.
On Friday, the IMF approved a 12-month $5.2 billion Stand-By Arrangement and the immediate access to $2 billion to counter the economic impact of the coronavirus.
On May 11, the IMF approved $2.77 billion as an extension to the loan pending under the IMF Expanded Service, under which $12 billion has been approved since 2016 for structural reforms.
In the wake of that loan, Egypt has carried out tough reforms by removing fuel and electricity subsides, significantly affecting the purchasing power of low-income citizens.
Over 30 percent of Egyptians live below the poverty threshold, according to official figures.
Egypt’s external debt currently stands at $112 billion, according to the most recent report issued by the Central Bank in May, double the debt recorded as of June 2016.