Egypt to slash prices of staple foods amid discontent over austerity

Egypt to slash prices of staple foods amid discontent over austerity
Rare protests against President Sisi earlier this year pushed Egypt to consider cutting the costs of basic goods.
2 min read
17 November, 2019
The move to cut food costs follow fuel price cuts last month [AFP]
Egypt is to reduce the prices of subsidised food staples from next month, the supply ministry spokesman said on Saturday.

The move mirrors fuel price cuts last month prompted by popular discontent with a tough austerity programme.

Spokesman Ahmed Kamal said on Saturday that the prices of cooking oil, sugar, rice and flour would be reduced from December 1.

He said the measures aimed to make goods available "in suitable quantities and prices". 

Last month, Egypt reinstated 1.8 million Egyptians to a food subsidy programme and cut fuel prices by 25 piastres (0.015 US cents) a litre.

The measures followed rare protests across the country in September after Mohammed Ali, an exiled businessman and former military contractor, accused President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of corruption.

Demonstrators gathered in the capital Cairo and other major cities, calling for Sisi's removal from power, but ultimately led to a harsh crackdown on dissent, with some 3,000 people detained in just three weeks.

Last month's fuel price cut was the first of its kind in decades.

Harsh austerity measures introduced by Sisi's government since he took office in 2014 have hit poor and middle-class Egyptians hard.

Nearly one in three Egyptians lives below the poverty line, according to official figures released in July. Unofficial figures estimate that number could be as high as 60 percent.

In 2016, Egypt agreed to slash a range of energy subsidies and economic changes in exchange for a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The changes included floating Egypt's currency, making substantial cuts in state subsidies on basic goods, and introducing a wide range of new taxes.

The IMF loan was disbursed in full earlier this year, providing a boost for the economy praised by analysts but not felt by many on the streets.

Egypt's official statistics agency said inflation fell to its lowest level in nearly a decade last month, easing to 2.4 percent compared with 17.5 percent a year earlier.

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