Egypt's parliament speaker wants 'execution for illegal currency dealers'

Egypt's parliament speaker wants 'execution for illegal currency dealers'
2 min read
11 August, 2016
Egypt's parliamentary speaker has called for strict punishments for illegal currency traders, even suggesting putting them to death, as the country faces a crippling foreign currency shortage.
Ali Abdel Al chairs proceedings in Egypt's staunchly pro-Sisi parliament [AFP]
Egypt's parliament speaker said illegal currency dealers should be executed, state-owned al-Ahram newspaper reported Wednesday, in comments addressing the "economic war" facing Egypt through its crippling currency shortage.

Speaker Ali Abdel Al also said that all foreign exchange bureaus in Egypt should be closed, as they have allegedly speculated down the value of the Egyptian pound. 
 
"Egypt is being subjected to an economic war and a conspiracy that we must decisively confront to strike a balance between security requirements and the rights of citizens," he said, accroding to al-Ahram.
 
The speaker's comments were made on Tuesday after legislators voted for stricter punishments to be enforced in cases of illegal currency trading.

Offenders now face a maximum jail sentence of 10 years and fines of up to 5 million Egyptian pounds ($570,000).
 
While Abdel Al's recommendation of the death penalty was perhaps not a serious policy proposal, his words do reflect the stark reality of the currency crisis currently facing Egypt - a country that relies heavily on imports for staple foods and primary goods for manafacturing.
 
Tourism once acted as a reliable source of dollars for the Egyptian economy, however a slump in this sector since 2011 has dwindled foreign currency reserves.

Adding to Egypt's economic woes are falling remittances from Egyptian expatriates and double-digit unemployment.

To get hold of vital imports, many private sector businesses have bought dollars on the black market, which has caused prices to soar.

Egypt's government has responded to this trend by cracking down on illegal money changers and shutting down foreign exchange bureaus suspected of speculating down the national currency.
 
With a delegation from the International Monetary Fund currently in Egypt for negotiations over a $12 billion loan, determining a realistic value for the Egyptian pound will be central to discussions.

Media reports say that the IMF's team is suggesting 11.60 Egyptian pounds to the US dollar as a reasonable exchange rate.

This rate is almost three pounds more than the current official rate of 8.87 pounds, which lags behind the black market rate of 12.50 pounds to the dollar.

This black market advantage has drawn billions of dollars away from Egyptian banks each year.