Egypt clamp on carrying cash
Cairo, December 25, 2012
Egypt has banned travellers from carrying more than $10,000 in foreign currency cash in or out of the country, as officials worry over pressure on its pound currency and a rush by Egyptians to withdraw their savings from banks.
Political turmoil over the past month has raised fears among ordinary citizens that the government - which has pushed back talks to seal IMF funding till January - may not be able to get its fragile finances under control.
The central bank has spent more than $20 billion of its foreign reserves to support the pound since the popular uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in early 2011. It now has only $15 billion, which is equal to only about three months of imports cover.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali on Tuesday confirmed the government decision, which includes US dollars or their equivalent in other foreign currencies. The decision also forbids sending cash through the mail.
The decision prohibits all travellers from "bringing foreign currency into the country or carrying it out to only $10,000".
Any funds over $10,000 must be transferred electronically, Ali added.
Previously, travellers were simply required to declare any amounts above $10,000 to authorities on their way in or out.
Bankers say depositors had been withdrawing greater amounts of cash from their accounts since President Mohamed Mursi issued a constitutional declaration last month that expanded his powers and threw the country into a political crisis.
The crisis has complicated a $4.8 billion loan the government is seeking from the International Monetary Fund.
The IMF had been due to approve the loan on December 19, but the government asked for a delay after it cancelled a series of unpopular austerity measures deemed essential for its approval.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said that political stability was crucial to luring back foreign investors and tourists to help plug a yawning budget deficit and heal the country's ailing economy.
Kandil said President Mohamed Mursi's government was committed to taking steps to improve economic growth.
"The prime minister stressed the importance of political stability and security in the coming period, so that foreign investors could return to the Egyptian market, as well as tourism inflows that help support foreign currency reserves and plug the budget deficit," Kandil said in a statement.
"The main goals that the government is working towards now is plugging the budget deficit, and working on increasing growth to boost employment rates, curb inflation, and increase the competitiveness of Egyptian exports," the statement said.
Egypt's budget deficit surged to 11 percent of gross domestic product in the financial year that ended in June 2012 and is forecast to exceed 10 percent this year, adding to a public debt burden of 70 percent of national output that is already very high for a developing economy. - Reuters