Egypt to tackle US dollar shortage with land sales to foreign companies

Egypt to tackle US dollar shortage with land sales to foreign companies
The relaxing of rules around land sales comes as the Egyptian government tries to overcome a shortage of foreign currency.
2 min read
Egypt - Cairo
04 January, 2024
Egypt approves sale of lands to foreign companies amid a severe economic crisis [Getty]

Egypt's cabinet said Wednesday that it would approve the sale of some tracts of land to foreign companies in US dollars, in an apparent bid to overcome a shortage of foreign currency.

The land up for sale in US dollars will be for a range of uses, including commercial, administrative, and residential projects, the cabinet said in a statement, without specifying prices.

This could allow foreigners to purchase real estate without restrictions and expatriates to import duty-free cars.

In recent months the Egyptian government has started selling state assets, including army-owned firms, to wealthy Gulf nations.

This move is meant to attract foreign currency and loosen state and military control over the economy - a condition for a $3 billion loan programme signed by the IMF and Egypt.

In March last year, the government declared it would allow foreigners to acquire Egyptian citizenship, provided the person purchases real estate valued in US dollars.

Also on Wednesday, Egypt's planning ministry said that remittances from Egyptians working abroad in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2023/2024 had dropped by almost 30 percent when compared to the same period last year.

The payments fell from $6.39 billion in July-September 2022 to $4.52 billion in the same months of 2023.

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"Such a decline echoes the concerns by Egyptians working aboard as to the instability of the local currency against the US dollar," economic researcher Ahmed Abdel-Thaher told The New Arab.

"Egyptians abroad are refraining from depositing their savings in foreign currency at local banks, fearing they would have to withdraw them in the local currency."

The state-owned National Bank of Egypt and Banque Misr, the two banks in Egypt where most of the citizens' savings are kept, had earlier last year issued two US dollar-denominated annual-yield certificates of deposit (CD) in a bid to attract much-needed foreign currency.

The Egyptian pound has been struggling against the US dollar for months leading prices for goods to rise, due to Egypt depending heavily on imports.

At the time of this article's publication, one US dollar is equal to 30.95 EGP, while a US dollar is valued at about 52 EGP in the shadow market.