January 9, 2016 / 11:20 AM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Egypt's president Sisi launches loan program for SMEs

(Adds details, background, comment)

CAIRO, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Egypt’s banking sector will inject 200 billion Egyptian pounds ($25 billion) to support small and medium businesses, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Saturday, the latest bid to support Egypt’s battered economy and create jobs.

“I have assigned the central bank to make the most of the banking sector to implement a comprehensive programme to support small and medium businesses,” Sisi said, adding that loans for small and medium businesses over the next four years will not be less than 20 percent of all loans issued.

Egypt’s economy has been struggling to recover since a popular uprising in 2011 drove foreign investors and tourists away. The uprising was partly fueled by anger over the lack of job prospects for young Egyptians.

Sisi had pledged to reduce joblessness to 10 percent over the next five years. The unemployment level reached 12.8 percent in December.

“The biggest hurdle for young entrepreneurs is the financing and if that issue is resolved there will be more businesses and more jobs created”, one banker said, adding that with the new program banks will bear the burden on their profit margins.

Egypt’s economy grew about 4.2 percent last fiscal year and the government forecasts growth of about 5 percent in 2015/16.

In November, Egypt’s urban consumer inflation jumped to its highest level since June, propelled by the rising cost of food. Prices rose 11.1 percent in November, up from 9.7 percent in October.

$1 = 7.8300 Egyptian pounds Reporting by Asma Alsharif and Mostafa Hashem; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt

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