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Arabic press review: Egypt's debt soars to record levels

Meanwhile, improving Cairo-Ankara relations hits snag, an Arab consortium considers move for Chelsea FC, and fury in Lebanon's Palestinian camps over reduced UN funding
An Egyptian woman shops at a Cairo market, 17 March 2022. By the end of this year, the country's predicted foreign debt will mean that each Egyptian will owe nearly $4k (AFP)
An Egyptian woman shops at a Cairo market, 17 March 2022. By the end of this year, the country's predicted foreign debt will mean that each Egyptian will owe nearly $4k (AFP)

Egypt's debt set to increase to record levels

Egypt's total sovereign loans are expected to reach record levels by the end of this year, according to data issued by the international credit rating agency Standard & Poor's.

Egyptian sovereign debt will surge by $43.4bn, reaching $391.8bn at the end of this year, compared to $348.4bn at the end of 2021, said the Arabi21 website. In 2017, the total debt stood at $184.9bn.

'Egypt will become the largest debtor country in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world'

- Arabi21

"Egypt will become the largest debtor country in the Middle East and one of the largest in the world," Arabi21 reported.

The per capita share of this debt in Egypt will be among the highest in the world, with each Egyptian citizen owing more than $3,900 by the end of the year, equivalent to more than 71,000 Egyptian pounds.

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Analysts say that Egyptian public debt has become a "time bomb", overburdening the economy and resulting in a dramatic loss of value of the Egyptian pound, according to Arabi21.

As a result, the cost of basic materials has risen exponentially and poverty and unemployment rates have soared.

Servicing these debts now takes up to 44 percent of Egypt's national budget.

Egypt and Turkey rapprochement

A high-ranking Egyptian diplomat has said that Egyptian-Turkish relations over many regional issues, including Libya, the Mediterranean and energy distribution, have substantially improved.

However, Cairo's insistence that Ankara hand over members of Egypt's opposition based in Turkey remains an obstacle to the resumption of normal relations between the two countries, according to a report published by al-Araby al-Jadeed newspaper based in London.

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An Egyptian diplomatic source described the current communications between the two countries as "probationary", according to al-Araby al-Jadeed.

"Egypt has specified a set of demands regarding the file of the Egyptian opposition existed on the Turkish territories, especially the Muslim Brotherhood," the source said.

The source revealed that Egypt's initial demand was the closing of "opposition channels completely”, saying that Cairo feared “that these channels may remain a tool in the hands of the Turkish side … in any future negotiations between the two countries". 

The sources said that "the last meeting, which included security officials from the two countries, discussed that file, and the Egyptian side affirmed its demand regarding the complete cessation of any activities and meetings of the group's leaders and their allies in Turkey". 

Arab consortium in talks for Chelsea FC

Serious talks have recently taken place with the intention of forming an Arab consortium to buy the Chelsea Football Club of the English Premier League, according to the Okaz newspaper based in Riyadh.

Unnamed sources said that the talks were held between an Arab company based in Morocco, the UAE and an unnamed Saudi businessman, according to Okaz.

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On 2 March, Chelsea's owner, Roman Abramovich, put the London club up for sale, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The British government later imposed sanctions on the Russian billionaire.

The UK government and the Premier League will oversee the sale of Chelsea, in light of the sanctions imposed.

Abramovich bought Chelsea for $100m in 2003, with the total value of subsequent investments in the club totalling more than $2bn dollars. The club is currently valued at close to $4bn.

Last month it was reported that the Saudi Media Company, the largest media group in the Middle East, had submitted an offer of $3.5bn for the English club.

Fury as crisis hits Palestinian refugees in Lebanon

A unified protest movement has emerged in Lebanon's Palestinian refugee camps, in response to the announcement from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) that it was reducing its humanitarian assistance and monthly payments due to the financial crisis it is facing, according to al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper.

Palestinian human rights organisations and institutions have warned UNRWA against reducing its services in light of the devastating economic crisis in Lebanon and the increasingly difficult living conditions facing those in the refugee camps.

In response, camp residents have organised a series of protests, rallies and sit-ins inside the camps and in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Beirut, to demand it reverse its decision.

The Thabit Organisation for the Right of Return criticised UNRWA's move and called on the UN agency to respond to the demands of the refugees and to expand the circle of severe hardship cases to be included in its programme.

If UNRWA fails to address the issues, there could be a social explosion, a spokesperson for Thabit said.

*Arabic press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.