6 Feb 2011

Egyptian economy parlous

6:54 am on 6 February 2011

Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan says the economic situation is "very serious" due to the anti-government protests.

Economists at Credit Agricole say the uprising is costing the country at least $US310 million per day.

President Hosni Mubarak held talks with ministers on Saturday on measures to try to revive the economy.

Trade Minister Samiha Fawzi Ibrahim said exports were down 6% in January and extra food was being provided to try to stabilise prices and curb shortages.

Banks and the stock exchange have been closed for days. The BBC reports many factories in the major cities are shut.

State media said the stock market would not now open on Monday as planned.

The BBC reports the paralysis induced by the protests is having a huge impact on the economy. Tourists have been frightened away and the prices of basic goods like cigarettes and bread have been soaring.

Many Egyptians are beginning to wonder aloud how quickly daily life will return to normal regardless of the outcome of the struggle for power.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Radwan admitted the economy faced a "very serious" situation and that he was in constant touch with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

But he also said the economy had a "solid base" and "so far, we are coping".

Mr Radwan also said there would be a meeting with opposition groups to try to end the protests, which began on 25 January.