(Adds oil details, background)
CAIRO, March 26 Egypt's government is targeting
a budget deficit of about 9.5 percent of gross domestic product
for the 2017-18 financial year starting on July 1, Prime
Minister Sherif Ismail said in a news conference on Sunday.
Ismail said he expects the deficit for the current year to
June 30 to be between 10.5 percent and 10.7 percent, against
12.2 percent the previous year.
Recent gas discoveries in the Zohr, Atoll and North
Alexandria fields will allow a drop in oil imports to two
cargoes a month instead of 12 currently, Ismail said. He did not
specify when the government expects to reach that target.
Egypt's finance minister said on March 16 that the second
tranche of a $12 billion three-year International Monetary Fund
loan programme to support government efforts to reduce the
budget deficit and balance Egypt's currency market is expected
to be paid in May or June.
The cabinet's economic group, which is composed of ministers
who hold financial and economic portfolios, will meet on Sunday
to discuss the proposed 2017-18 budget, Ismail said.
The full cabinet must approve the budget, which was drafted
by the Finance Ministry, before it is voted on by parliament and
then signed into law by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Finance Minister Amr El Garhy said last week that the
government would submit the budget to parliament before March
31. Cabinet meetings are usually held on Wednesdays and the next
one is scheduled for March 29.
(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Maha El Dahan and