Want to Be a Pharaoh? It'll Cost You 7 Million Egyptian Pounds

(Bloomberg) -- Foreigners living in Egypt will be able to apply for citizenship after five years of residency under new rules given initial backing by parliament -- as long as their pockets are deep enough.

Under the proposal, which won lawmakers’ preliminary approval on Sunday, foreign nationals would need to deposit at least seven million Egyptian pounds ($391,000), or the equivalent in another currency, for each of five consecutive years, and meet other citizenship criteria, the daily Al-Akhbar and Al-Ahram newspapers reported.

Under a 1975 law, foreigners had to live in Egypt for a decade to apply for naturalization. Citizenship, in general, is transferable through a father or mother.

The changes are primarily aimed at investors, according to legislators, and come as Egypt is attempting to broaden an economic reform agenda centered on the 2016 removal of currency controls and a $12 billion International Monetary Fund loan. In what was likely an attempt to ward off criticism that the government is pandering to businesses, parliament speaker Ali Abdel-Aal stressed that Egyptian nationality was “valuable” and not for sale.

Some foreign residents of Egypt enjoy subsidies and government support, “and in the end take the citizenship of another country,” state-run Middle East News Agency quoted Abdel-Aal as saying Monday. “Why not grant them Egyptian citizenship?”

The IMF has applauded the government’s efforts, and said the next stage must focus on longer-term objectives, such as curbing the public wage bill, creating a more investment-friendly climate and bolstering private-sector growth. Subsidy cuts -- a key part of the economic overhaul -- have hit hard in the nation of 96 million people, about half of whom live in poverty.

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