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Egypt curtails access to subsidised food as part of reforms

Published:Wednesday | August 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this October 26, 2016 file photo, volunteers from a local supermarket sell sugar after a market shortage in the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt.


Egypt yesterday curtailed access to ration cards used by three-quarters of the country's 93 million people to buy subsidised food items the latest in the government's ambitious economic reform plan.

Under a government decree, which was published in the official gazette on Tuesday, people earning more than 1,500 Egyptian pounds (about $84) a month would be excluded from getting ration cards. Beneficiaries were also limited to families with up to four members. The decree did not make clear what happens to impoverished families with five or more members.

The new ration cards limits will not affect current cardholders. Authorities estimate abound 70 million Egyptians are using ration cards. The measures went into effect yesterday.

The Egyptian government is looking to bring down its budget deficit to 9.1 per cent in the current fiscal year, from 10.9 per cent in the previous one, by cutting spending and lifting subsidies.

Subsidy cuts have a history of stoking unrest in Egypt, but the government has pleaded with the people to brace themselves and endure the tough austerity measures, promising the measures would spur economic recovery and attract foreign investments.

Among the key measures undertaken within efforts to fulfil International Monetary Fund conditions for a $12-billion loan, Egypt devalued and then floated the national currency.

Earlier this summer, the government raised prices by up to 55 per cent for the most-used automobile fuels in the country 80 octane gasolene and diesel and doubled the prices of butane canisters used across Egyptian households for cooking. It also raised the prices of electricity by more than 40 per cent, as well as drinking water and public transportation charges.