The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

LE 200

That's good news for those business men of Egypt’s parallel economy carrying around millions of pounds (khawaga hit men pay in hard currency, I guess?). The capacity of their black suit cases could now double, as Egypt’s Central Bank is to introduce LE200 notes. (And later on even LE 500 notes).

On the lower end of Egypt’s cash economy (90% of transactions are estimated to be carried out in cash), many people would also welcome an initiative to improve the supply of SMEs with smaller denominations.

Penetration of SMEs with banking services is low, agreed, but why is it that no-one has change? If you’re the first customer at your local grocery in the early morning or the first in a fast-food outlet in the late morning hours, it takes ages for them to scrape up your change together from all employees around.

Anyways, even if banks don’t offer cash-flow services to SMEs, I think many would welcome it if shop owners found a way to keep change in their shop at the end of the day for the next morning (or bring it with them before opening), and I always wondered why they’re not doing so. Cash-flow of groceries and other shops is much higher then what you’d think.

Another consequence of the fact that SMEs/shops and banks have in so far (now many banks consider it as an opportunity for growth) largely ignored each other, is the prevalence of worn-out banknotes. It is one function of the Central Bank (via banks) to separate them out, but that doesn’t work if banks never get to see them…

(Besides that, I also don’t understand the Egyptian mentality here. Instead of fighting over it, you just pass that outworn khamza gineh right on to the next passenger (in case of taxi drivers), and everyone involved is muss less stressed. Iranians, for instance, are not at all obsessed about clean money. They just tear half-torn notes into two proper pieces and then tape them.)