Thursday, October 06, 2005

Cairo Calling

I haven't posted much in the last week because I spent the weekend in Cairo, Egypt, just a short hop from my temporary home in Budapest. I had lots of interesting experiences and I hope to post about the economics thereof in the next week or so.

For now, I'll just say that I shared Isaac's Senegalese experience of a lack of small change. The Egyptian currency is the pound (not the British one). The "cent" equivalent is the piastre. (There are 25 and 50 piastre bills as well as a number of different coins.) My friend who had been in Egypt for a few weeks said that she had only seen three coins since she arrived. Nearly all transactions use bills and usually the 1, 5, and 10 denominations. Thus, the 1-, 5-, and 10-pound bills are typically in very poor condition: beaten up, torn, smudged. But 100- and 50-pound bills (the only kinds you can get from ATMs) are pristine. On the last day I did get some new 1s and did I ever hate to part with them. But the cleaning woman must get tipped....

Why doesn't the government just issue more bills of the lower denominations?


Blogger Isaac said...

Glad to add another data point. Thing is, if you live there for a while you become much savvier about breaking bills at the appropriate places, and it becomes less of a problem.

I asked O'Connell about this and he didn't have any ideas...

1:02 AM  

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