For Egypt’s Central Bank, financial donors are always welcome.
Whether it’s Qatar, Saudi Arabia or even controversial international lenders like the International Monetary Fund, if the donation looks and feels like US dollars, Egypt is happy to receive it. Especially at a time when the country is desperate to fund dollar-denominated fuel and wheat imports, but limited foreign currency reserves make it too expensive.
So last night on Egypt’s CBC channel, when TV host Khairy Ramadan called on all Egyptians – the business community, celebrities, Egyptian expatriates and ordinary citizens – to donate to a national fund to help Egypt out of its economic malaise, many Egyptians were happy to take part.
Anyone can deposit money into the “Egypt Fund” using bank account number 306306 (all Egyptian banks are accepting donations).
Within minutes, hundreds of Egyptians were calling to donate money to the cause. Even children donated pocket money.
But one person in particular stole the show. Mohammed Hawas, chief executive of Sahara Group, an engineering company declared that he would donate a whopping $5 billion. (By the way, he was a presidential candidate in 2005, so undoubtedly, a political element is at play here…).
The national fund, trending on Twitter with the hashtag #EgyptFund, has already stirred debate.
For some, it highlighted the patriotic duty of Egyptians at a time of instability. Some said if the donations continue at the same pace, Egypt would have no need to sign a loan from any other country or organisation, including the IMF. Some even went as far to say that Egypt could eventually lend money to the US and not the other way round.
Other viewers were more sceptical. “I’ll believe it when I see the money with my own eyes,” said one unconvinced Tweep. “So I should give up my money for the economy even if it doesn’t work?” asked another.
For all the discussion for and against the account, Egyptians should be reminded that this is a tried and tested method. Even under Mohammed Morsi, a “Renaissance Account” was opened encouraging the same donations, for the same cause.
It didn’t work that time (or we would have heard about it) and it is unlikely to work this time.
The account might be a crowd-pleaser rallying positive momentum for Egypt’s economy, but if the country is really serious about improving the economic situation, the interim government needs to move quickly on the formation of a cabinet so that the government can function properly and real reforms can be pushed through.