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Egypt says to open cash machines to civil servants

The banking system is now nearing its second week of a near-total halt.

February 1, 2011 3:54 by

Egypt’s state banks will reopen their cash machines to pensioners and government employees to collect pensions and salaries as of Wednesday, Egypt’s newly appointed Finance Minister Samir Radwan said.

Egyptians, many of whom live hand to month, have increasingly felt the strain as protests demanding an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s spread across the country. The banking system is now nearing its second week of a near-total halt.

Withdrawals will be limited to 1,000 Egyptian pounds ($171) a day, Radwan told state television.

Many cash machines have been smashed by looters and most others were shut down.

Radwan said machines at the National Bank of Egypt, Banque Misr and Banque du Caire would be open for limited withdrawals, as would those at Housing and Development Bank , in which the government owns a big stake.

The state news agency MENA quoted bank officials as saying machines were being loaded and cash was already available at some. A number of machines belonging to foreign-owned banks HSBC and NSGB were working on Tuesday, residents in the upscale neighbourhood of Zamalek said.

It was unclear if employees of private companies, where salaries are often paid on about the first of the month, would have access to funds through machines. Most factories and retail shops apart from food outlets have been closed since Thursday.

Government salaries are mostly made available to employees around the 20th of the month, and pensions beginning on the 10th. Many retired employees collect their pensions through cash machines, but others collect them from post office branches, which have also been closed.

(Reporting by Patrick Werr and Yasmine Saleh)

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