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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 15:21 GMT 16:21 UK
Birth rate 'hurts Egypt's economy'
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC News, Cairo

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has blamed the country's economic woes on rapid population growth.

Mr Mubarak told an Egyptian newspaper that the government was doing its utmost to solve the country's economic difficulties, but that the real problem was the rate at which the country's population was growing.

100 Egyptian pounds
The pound has slumped against the dollar

Inflation, unemployment, and lack of foreign investment have been the headline news of the Egyptian press for some time.

Some opposition newspapers have called on the government to resign for failing to tackle the country's economic crisis.

The Egyptian currency, the pound, has lost half of its value against the dollar over the past three years.

Prices of basic commodities, such as rice, sugar and oil have doubled.

'Byzantine bureaucracy'

The government says it has the situation under control and blames much of the problems on a slowdown in the international economy after the 11 September, and prevailing uncertainty because of the war on Iraq and its aftermath.

Current population = 70m
Annual population growth = 2%
Projected population in 2013 = 85m
Annual economic growth = 3%
Growth needed to absorb unemployment = 6%

But its critics speak of widespread corruption and Byzantine bureaucracy, an environment not conducive to foreign investment.

Now, President Mubarak's remarks have touched on one of the most fundamental problems facing Egypt, and which is often forgotten when discussing the country's problems - rapid population growth.

The number of Egyptians born every year far outpaces projected growth rates for the economy.

According to official figures, the population increases at the rate of about2% annually.

At that rate, Mr Mubarak said, Egypt's 70 million people will have grown to 85 million in 10 years' time.

According to the International Monetary Fund, economic growth in Egypt is forecast to be about 3% for the next year - way below what is needed to absorb the ever growing number of the unemployed.

Egyptian pound tumbles on debut
29 Jan 03  |  Business
Country Profile: Egypt
08 Sep 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Egypt
30 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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