bills, bigger denominations?
currency may inspire larger bills
by Tarek Atia
May 30, 2002)
It's one of Cairo's
quirks -- walk into a bank on any given day and you'll see people
carrying huge duffle bags, sagging with cash. These aren't smugglers but
ordinary customers, who happen to have been involved in a major
purchase. Cash is still king in Egypt -- and the bank scene proves it.
The tellers will be lugging piles of tens, twenties, sometimes even
fives, bundled up in packages of 100 notes, ceaselessly running the
bills through the bill-counting machine.
These days, after a
major drop in the value of the pound vis a vis the dollar, the loads of
cash look to only get bigger. Especially with imports, you'll need more pounds to pay for
whatever it is you're buying. And for that reason, Al-Wafd recently
reported, a member of parliament has suggested that Egypt begin printing
higher denomination notes.
Currently, the highest
denomination is 100 pounds, or just over 20 dollars. The MP suggests the minting of 200 and 500 pound
Would this be
the beginning of the end of "the suitcase of money"
phenomenon -- as the paper's blaring headline put it?
The idea of
transitioning away from a cash economy has a lot of supporters. Banks
have been pushing credit and ATM cards on customers for some time now.
Though the idea still hasn't caught on with the general population,
indicators show it is making a mark.
A recent ad in Al-Akhbar
for a new "electronic shopping" credit card from the Arab Bank is
a marker of this new attitude. The ad assures readers that the
perfect for smaller purchases on the internet, promising security and a monthly
IT Minister Ahmed
Nazif may have put it best at a recent press conference when he said
that those who are worried about the dangers of fraud associated with credit
cards, must surely be equally aware of the dangers associated with carrying
around a huge bag of cash.
As for the prospects
of a crisp new 500 pound note gracing your pockets in the near future,
fiscal experts interviewed
by Al-Wafd did not seem to mind the idea -- but insisted that Egypt's first priority be improving the
quality of the printed notes themselves. Egyptian notes are notorious
for being in poor shape.
through the archives
Cairo Live covered
the old bills phenomenon
way back in June 2001, and received a very interesting letter from
someone with a lot of old notes.
Later that year,
a rather similar suggestion seems to have come up regarding a new,
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