Dollar shortage hobbles Egypt's economy

STORY: In eastern Cairo, Christeen Aiad had been hoping to buy a new car.

But soaring prices forced her to rethink:

“We used to use this bicycle for sports on the weekend, but now that I don’t have a car, I use it for transportation for short distances.”

She’s one victim of a dollar shortage that is hobbling Egypt’s imports.

The greenback has run short amid soaring costs for wheat and oil due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Egypt’s government responded with new rules preventing importers trading in dollars.

That’s resulted in shortages of some goods, and helped drive inflation to four-year highs.

Shortages affect everything from electrical parts to textiles, but car dealers are among the hardest hit.

Ashraf Helal is sales manager at one Cairo dealership:

“This crisis started in February when the new import restrictions came into place and car imports were halted, so we had shortages in cars and high prices.”

This week Egypt’s central bank eased restrictions slightly, but the bottlenecks are expected to drag on.

Local banks say dollars are hard to find, and traders say importing anything has become hard.

Egypt’s foreign currency reserves are steadily dwindling, and Cairo is in talks over a new loan from the International Monetary Fund.

Meanwhile, would-be car buyers are left in a tough spot, with prices for some models doubling.

Christeen Aiad says no matter how fast she saves up, prices just rise even faster.