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Arabic press review: Egypt accused of 'faking' $42bn in foreign reserves

Economist Sameh Abu Arayes says loans make up large chunk of purported $42bn of foreign reserves in Egypt
People walk past the Egyptian Central Bank in Cairo (AFP)

Show me the money

Egyptian economics expert Sameh Abu Arayes said on Monday that a claim by the Egyptian Central Bank that it had raised its cash reserves to $42bn was "fake", according to the Cairo-based newspaper Al-Mesryoon.

Abu Arayes added: "The Central Bank reserve, which has allegedly reached the highest level in its history, is an imaginary reserve and [it is] a fake increase because it is all loans...the last increase, for example, was due to a $4bn loan borrowed by Egypt through issuing bonds in international markets at an annual interest rate which reached 8 percent. These bonds will be repaid as $7.25bn."

"The reserve includes a previous loan by the issuance of dollar bonds worth $7bn, meaning that the sum of the previous few loans amounted to $33bn of the reserve, which is now $42bn." 

Reds under the bed

Egyptian police have rounded up a number of high profile left-wing activists in the run-up to presidential elections. According to London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi, veteran leftist Gamal Abdel Fattah was arrested in a dawn raid on Wednesday. His family said he was being held in an undisclosed location. 

Egyptian security services also arrested another left-wing activist, former Kefaya movement member Hassan Hussein, on Friday. Hussein’s family sent letters to the attorney general, interior minister and others to inform them about Hussein’s arrest that took place early on Friday morning, after which he was taken to an unknown destination.

The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms, a non-governmental human rights organisation, also stated that it had received reports about the presence of the lawyer and human rights activist Ezzat Ghonim in the State Security Prosecution office on Sunday morning and confirmed that Ghonim was detained in an unknown location.

Come back to where you came from

The Philippines’ Labour Minister Silvestre Bello has urged his country's workers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to return to their country, in the latest episode in a row over the mistreatment of the country's workers in the Gulf.

Last month the Philippines president said he would offer free flights to 10,000 Filipino domestic workers who had outstayed their visas in Kuwait after a Filipino maid, Joanna Demafelis, was found murdered and her body placed in her employer's freezer in Kuwait.

An amnesty was announced by Kuwait for the women to return home via the Philippines embassy.

Philippines Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro claimed that "the number of domestic workers who flee and resort to the embassy has dropped from 20 cases a day to about 10-15 per day," according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai.

The Philippines ambassador said that "3,000 Philippines female domestic workers who have been working in homes have left Kuwait since the government announced a deadline for the settlement of the conditions of the ones who broke residency."

He added that the embassy "expects the number to reach 7,000 before the end of the deadline, out of about 10,000 breaking residency, according to statistics of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior."

The Kuwaiti Interior Ministry previously announced an amnesty for Filipino workers breaking their residency permits between 29 January and 22 February.

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