CAIRO, March 20 (Reuters) - Egypt will launch a scheme on Saturday to reduce its budget deficit by selling plots of land near Cairo to Egyptians living abroad, the housing minister said on Tuesday, with the aim of raising $15 billion over four years.
The deficit has widened since last year’s popular uprising hammered the economy, cut tax revenue and led to demands for higher salaries and more benefits.
The government has forecast a budget deficit of 144 billion Egyptian pounds ($23.9 billion) in the fiscal year to June 30, about 8.7 percent of gross domestic product.
Housing Minister Fathi Abdelaziz el-Baradei told reporters the government planned to offer an initial 8,000 plots in at least two satellite cities near Cairo via a website, and said Egyptians living abroad would be able to reserve the plots as of Saturday.
They include 800 square metre lots in Sheikh Zayed City that the government will sell for $675 per square metre and 400 square metre lots in Badr City for $250 per square metre.
The government said in a 10-page economic plan it sent to parliament this month that it hoped to raise as much as $15 billion from the land sales over four years.
It is also working on plans to raise foreign currency by selling certificates of deposit to Egyptians living abroad and Islamic sukuk bonds to foreign institutions.
Egypt has been negotiating a $3.2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, which now has a team in Cairo, to help it avert a fiscal crisis. ($1 = 6.0342 Egyptian pounds) (Reporting by Patrick Werr, editing by Tim Pearce)