(Adds oil details, background)
CAIRO, March 26 (Reuters) - Egypt’s government is targeting a budget deficit of about 9.5 percent of gross domestic product for the 2017-18 financial year starting on July 1, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said in a news conference on Sunday.
Ismail said he expects the deficit for the current year to June 30 to be between 10.5 percent and 10.7 percent, against 12.2 percent the previous year.
Recent gas discoveries in the Zohr, Atoll and North Alexandria fields will allow a drop in oil imports to two cargoes a month instead of 12 currently, Ismail said. He did not specify when the government expects to reach that target.
Egypt’s finance minister said on March 16 that the second tranche of a $12 billion three-year International Monetary Fund loan programme to support government efforts to reduce the budget deficit and balance Egypt’s currency market is expected to be paid in May or June.
The cabinet’s economic group, which is composed of ministers who hold financial and economic portfolios, will meet on Sunday to discuss the proposed 2017-18 budget, Ismail said.
The full cabinet must approve the budget, which was drafted by the Finance Ministry, before it is voted on by parliament and then signed into law by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
Finance Minister Amr El Garhy said last week that the government would submit the budget to parliament before March 31. Cabinet meetings are usually held on Wednesdays and the next one is scheduled for March 29. (Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Maha El Dahan and David Goodman)