The Central Bank of Egypt instructed banks on Tuesday to close their branches and headquarters by 2pm instead of 5pm before the deadline that the army set for President Mohamed Morsi.
On Monday the armed forces gave Morsy 48 hours to resolve the government’s disputes with the opposition. Minister of Defence and commander-in-chief of the armed forces Major General Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi said in a televised statement that if necessary the armed forces would implement a roadmap for the country should their ultimatum pass without a satisfactory resolution.
An employee at the central bank, Ahmed Sakr, said: “The state of the economy is volatile right now and it was essential for the central bank to communicate these instructions to the banks, therefore, working hours will be reduced to ensure safety of the employees and branches.”
The central bank has also moved forward the schedule for its foreign currency auction from 11 to 10.30am, issuing the result an hour early at 11am.
“What has prepared us to act this way was the fact that the protests were planned ahead of time, and that Al-Sisi’s statement provided Morsi time ahead to act,” Sakr said.
In the days ahead of nationwide protests against Morsi, a number of banks announced the closure of many of their branches, while transferring their operations to other less dangerous locations out of security fears.
In the past few days, Egyptians have resorted to withdrawing large sums of cash from bank machines, fearing economic risks associated with the planned protests, which could drag on.
Banks were therefore obligated to increase the cash withdrawal limits due to the high demand on bank machines.