U.S. Prepares Economic Aid to Bolster Democracy in Egypt
Nearly 16 months after first pledging to help Egyptís failing economy, the Obama administration is nearing an agreement with the countryís new government to relieve $1 billion of its debt as part of an American and international assistance package intended to bolster its transition to democracy, administration officials said.
The administrationís efforts, delayed by Egyptís political turmoil and by wariness in Washington about new leaders emerging from its first free elections, gained new urgency in recent weeks, even as the United States risks losing influence and investment opportunities to countries like China, which President Mohamed Morsi chose for his first official visit outside of the Middle East.
In addition to the debt assistance, the administration has thrown its support behind a $4.8 billion loan being negotiated between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund. Last week it dispatched the first of two official delegations to work out details of the proposed debt assistance, as well as $375 million in financing and loan guarantees for American financiers who invest in Egypt and a $60 million investment fund for Egyptian businesses.
The assistance underscores the importance of shoring up Egypt at a time of turmoil and change across the Middle East, from the relatively peaceful uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia to the still-unfinished transition in Libya, and from the showdown over Iranís nuclear program to the war in Syria. Given Egyptís influence in the Arab world, the officials said, its economic recovery and political stability could have a profound influence on other nations in transition and ease wariness in Israel about the tumultuous political changes under way.