Egypt Back to Poorhouse, to Get $4.8B From IMF

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 11/21/2012 05:43:00 PM
It is no surprise to me that the IMF has just announced that Egypt is now in line to receive the $4.8B it asked for. It's geopolitics: the United States cannot really afford to lose Egypt as a mediator between Hamas and Israel as it has done in the past. Of course, matters are greatly complicated now by Egyptian leadership being drawn from the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood which has inspired Hamas all these years. How will President Mohammad Morsi manage this tricky balancing act of maintaining face with Hamas and traditional Brotherhood constituencies while cottoning up to America Mubarak-style and enforcing IMF conditionalities? Remember, this is the guy who once described Israelis as "vampires." (Too much Twilight saga, eh, Morsi?)

Lest you think matters are done and dusted, remember that the $4.8B loan is not yet finalized but will require approval by the (Western-dominated) IMF Executive Board. Should Morsi @#$% up over the next few days by disclaiming conditionalities or siding strongly with Hamas--familiar Brotherhood feints--the money can easily be yanked away. Consider this "staff-level agreement" as a dangling hook Morsi must bite by toeing the American line on austerity, structural adjustment, and putting Hamas in its place. (Yes, this is global political economy.)

To me, several questions remain unresolved:
  1. How will Morsi broker peace with hardline Muslim Brotherhood figures of the sort he used to be before becoming the Egyptian president?
  2. How will the public react to a massive rollback of energy subsidies? Even without a (Muslim Brotherhood-dominated) parliament to take offence, the Egyptian public has acquired a taste for mass protests during the so-called Arab Spring that may yet upset Morsi's putative plans. 
  3. How will the Brotherhood-dominated government react to public demands that all conditionalities be disclosed? Among other things the statement mentions, Egypt will for instance be asked to implement a national VAT system--something which the US of course does not have, but there's obviously nothing new with Westerners asking others to make sacrifices they aren't willing to make. 
  4. Is financing totalling a said $14.5B from various "bilateral and multilateral partners" in addition to the $4.8B standby agreement enough to set Egypt on solid footing?
I remain pessimistic about the rest of the country willingly buying into another round of IMF lending when it has chafed at doing so in the past. Moreover, its repeated trips to the poorhouse--the latest one being the most recent--do not bode well for the future. There are far too many things up in the air for any reasonable commentator to say that it will end well. The Palestinian questions obscures an already cloudy picture.

UPDATE: Just as Morsi was basking in praise from Obama et al, he decides to increase presidential powers. I wonder how this figures into IMF pleas for a more inclusive and consultative government to raise support for economic reform!