The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) is gradually easing its foreign exchange controls in response to the improving environment. No restrictions apply to the amount of money that businesses may legally transfer abroad, although the US State Department reports that such transfers require considerable paperwork and, in certain cases, can be delayed for up to several weeks.
The ban on travellers carrying more than the equivalent of US$10,000 in or out of the country has been lifted, and in January 2014, the CBE authorised individuals who had already hit the US$100,000 forex threshold to transfer an additional US$100,000.
The tight foreign exchange environment has contributed to the rise of the informal exchange market outside of the conventional banking sector. According to the US State Department, US dollars were being traded at a premium of 7% in April 2014.
The Central Bank of Egypt (CBE) monitors the health of the financial system, forms and implements monetary policy and works to maintain price stability. The central bank has intervened heavily in the monetary market since 2011, tightening controls on foreign investment and currency transfers to prevent disruptive levels of capital flight and inflation. The CBE began holding weekly foreign currency auctions in early 2013, where its US dollar (USD) reserves are sold in an effort to prop up the national currency, the Egyptian pound (EGP); in fact, this caused the value of the pound to drop, which more accurately reflected supply and demand. By January 2013, the pound had fallen to a record low of EGP6.4 to the USD.
The central bank introduced several measures intended to reduce demand for foreign currencies and stem the loss of foreign reserves. These included a $30,000 per day cash withdrawal ceiling and a 1-2% administrative fee for individuals who purchase foreign currency. In a new round of restrictions introduced in 2013, the government capped the amount of cash that individuals can physically transport out of the country to $10,000 per trip, and individuals were prohibited from transferring more than a total $100,000 abroad.
Even so, Egypts foreign reserves fell by an estimated 60% between 2011 and January 2013 to roughly US$15bn, a risky position for a nation so dependent on imports. Foreign financial support, especially from Gulf neighbours, helped to shore up the countrys finances through 2013. The CBE announced that Egypts net foreign reserves had risen to US$16.8bn in August 2014, a positive sign if the economy continues to stabilise.
Egypts foreign currency reserves have been eroded by uncertainty surrounding its political environment since 2011. Tourism revenue, a key source of foreign currency receipts in Egypt, plummeted from US$12.5bn in 2010 to a record low of US$5.9bn in 2013, according to the Egyptian tourism ministry. Continued uncertainty over the countrys political situation - following massive popular protests, a sharp military crackdown and the installation of a military-led government in mid-2013 - continues to raise concerns over the strength of the Egyptian pound (EGP).
However, economic and political conditions began to stabilise in 2014, which has helped to bolster the pound and allow for looser monetary policy. Egypts new government honours all treaties, investment laws and trade agreements that pre-date the revolution. The country has signed 111 bilateral investment agreements and applies the same conditions to foreign and domestic investors in may sectors.
The Egyptian pound uses the currency code EGP and is frequently abbreviated E or LE. One pound is made up of 100 cents, or piastres (pt). The central bank issues banknotes in values of E5, E10, E20, E50, E100 and E200, and coins in values of 25pt, 50pt and E1.
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