Egypt has mustered 60 percent of the US$6 billion required to secure a US$12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said.

The IMF in August agreed in principle to grant Egypt the three-year loan facility to back a government reform programme aimed at plugging a budget gap and rebalancing currency markets. Egypt needs to secure US$6 billion in bilateral support before the deal goes to the IMF board for approval.

“There is a problem with the growth rates, the public debt and the budget deficit…and the resources of the state budget is 930 billion, 292 billion are debt servicing,” ” Ismail told reporters following a cabinet meeting.

“The wages rose from 85 billion to 230 billion and what is left from the budget is for health services, education, and infrastructure…without resources, there would be no projects or new job opportunities for citizens,” Ismail added.

Egypt’s economy has been struggling since an uprising in 2011 ushered in political instability that drove away tourists and foreign investors, major sources of foreign currency.

Ismail also said that his government is working on making the rate of the dollar against the pound more reflective of its real value.

Black market traders said they are selling dollars at 15.5 pounds on Tuesday, up from 15 a week earlier, while the official rate is 8.8 pounds per dollar. The widening gap is increasing pressure on Egypt to devalue its currency and end uncertainty that has discouraged foreign investment.

As part of a reform programme that formed the basis of the IMF agreement, Egypt approved a long-awaited value-added-tax of 13 percent. Previously Egypt had no value-added-tax. The IMF also wants Egypt to focus monetary policy on easing the dollar shortage and reduce inflation to single digits.

Egypt’s efforts to defend the pound have drained reserves from US$36 billion before the 2011 uprising to US$19.6 billion at the end of September.