HRW criticises Egypt over economic mismanagement, military interference
The new US$3 billion loan agreement between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has left the economic rights of millions of Egyptians unprotected, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Democracy in the Arab World (DAWN) said in a joint report on Tuesday.
The agreement between the IMF and Egypt includes improved efforts to address deep-seated structural problems such as the opaque interference of the military in the economy and inadequate social protection, the report added.
"The expansion of the cash transfer program under the new IMF program, while a positive step, does not do nearly enough to protect people from spiralling costs exacerbated by the program," said Sarah Saadoun, senior researcher on poverty and inequality at HRW.
Other factors such as austerity and the sale of public assets, mostly to Gulf states, risk harming rights in a country where almost 30 per cent of the population is below the poverty line.
"The Egyptian government completely shrouds from public view the financial dealings of massively expanded businesses owned by military agencies, which mainly produce civilian goods, making them ripe for corruption and undermining civilian oversight of the funding for Egypt's military, which is responsible for serious abuses," according to the report.
The Egyptian pound has been struggling against the US dollar, leading to prices of basic commodities, mostly imported goods, experiencing unprecedented hikes, in turn putting low and average-income households in a dire situation.
Egypt is a country that depends on importation. As a result, the prices of most consumer goods got higher as people’s income is still the same depending on a devalued currency.
"Egyptians are facing a cost-of-living crisis that has left millions struggling to afford food and other economic rights," Saadoun said.
In January, the Egyptian pound was weakened by more than 13%, reading a new low of below 32 Egyptian pounds against the US dollar.
The US dollar jumped to as much as 30.7 EGP at the time of publishing.
In October last year, the Central Bank of Egypt implemented an exchange rate flexibility, allowing the pound's value to be regulated by market forces in a bid to save an already ailing economy.
Egypt is also the world's largest wheat importer, most of which came from Russia and Ukraine. The country's supply is subject to price changes in the international market. The country’s economy has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and the recent Ukrainian-Russian war, events that also disrupted global markets and hiked oil and food prices worldwide.