CAIRO, March 17 Egypt's central bank opened a
scheme on Sunday allowing foreign investors in the stock and
government debt markets access to dollars despite severe
shortages of foreign currency.
In a statement posted on its website, the central bank said
it had decided to restart and broaden a mechanism helping
foreign investors to repatriate their funds that was used in
2000-2003 - also a period of dollar shortages when the Egyptian
pound's value fell sharply.
"In addressing the central bank's responsibility for moving
the Egyptian economy securely through the exceptional
circumstances that the country is going through, it has decided
to reenact those mechanisms starting Sunday," the bank said.
Egypt has endured two years of political instability,
driving tourists and foreign investors away and draining its
foreign reserves. These fell to a critical level of $13.5
billion at the end of February from $36 billion just before the
uprising that ousted President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The Egyptian pound has lost more than 8 percent against the
dollar since the end of last year and central bank has rationed
dollars through auctions to commercial banks to slow the slide
in the pound and the reserves.
The "Foreign Investors' Repatriation Mechanism" will be
expanded to cover treasury bills and bonds in addition to
investments on the Egyptian stock market, the statement said.
Egypt wants to negotiate a $4.8 billion loan from the
International Monetary Fund and has rejected the possibility of
short-term IMF financing during its current political
uncertainty. The IMF's Director for the Middle East and North
Africa Masood Ahmed is due in Cairo for talks with the
government on Sunday.
Parliamentary elections were supposed to start on April 22
but a court cancelled President Mohamed Mursi's decree calling
them. An appeal against the ruling is being heard on Sunday.