Egypt confident on IMF deal, timing of next visit unsure: Minister

ISTANBUL (REUTERS) - Egypt's new planning minister said on Saturday he was confident the country would reach a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a US$4.8 billion (S$5.9 billion) loan programme, although the timing of its next visit to Cairo was unclear.

The IMF said on Thursday it was not currently planning a new visit to Egypt to discuss the programme as it was awaiting new economic data and reform plans from the government.

"I am not sure about the time of return but what I am sure about is that we are going to close a deal because there is a lot of agreement," Planning Minister Amr Darrag told Reuters.

"It is going to be closed," he said on the sidelines of a European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) conference in Istanbul.

Mr Hany Kadry Dimian, a senior Egyptian finance ministry official who has been the point man in the protracted and so far fruitless negotiations, said this month he hoped to conclude the remaining stages with the global lender as soon as possible.

Egypt has been in crisis since a popular uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak in early 2011 and has run through more than US$20 billion in reserves, borrowed billions more from abroad and delayed payments to oil companies to support its currency.

Investment Minister Yehya Hamed told the EBRD conference the budget deficit would be around 200 billion Egyptian pounds (S$35.5 billion), equivalent to 11.5 per cent of national output, in the 2012/13 year to the end of June.

The government is seeking to narrow the deficit to 9.5 per cent of gross domestic product in the next financial year.