Egyptians angered by latest price hikes

After the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, the economy of Egypt has been in deep trouble. Shutterstock
Updated 19 June 2018
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Egyptians angered by latest price hikes

  • The new hikes will save up to $2.8 billion from funds allocated for state subsidies in the country’s 2018-19 budget
  • Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared that Egypt’s spending to cover fuel, food and electricity is $18.6 billion a year and he plans to slash these figures

CAIRO: For Mamdouh Ahmed, a bank accountant from Cairo, life has just become a lot more expensive.

The 50-year-old used to pay 100 Egyptian pounds ($5.60) for 20 liters of 92 octane gasoline for his car. But after the government hiked fuel prices during Eid Al-Fitr, he now pays 135 pounds — a 35 percent increase.
“At least they should have done 10 percent only and in the next three-four months applied another increase. This is too much,” Ahmed, told Arab News.
The increase in fuel prices — the fourth since 2014 — have angered Egyptians already struggling to cope after hikes in the cost of drinking water, electricity and public transport.
Caused by the removal of subsidies, they are part of the painful austerity measures introduced by the government to service the country’s ailing economy.
The increases announced on Saturday included a 60 percent rise in the price of cooking gas. Prices for commercial use went from 60 to 100 pounds per cylinder and for home use from 30 to 50 pounds.
For gasoline, the increase averaged about 34 percent. For 92 octane, prices increased from 5 pounds to 6.75 pounds per liter and 80 octane increased from 3.65 to 5.5 pounds.
The new hikes will save up to $2.8 billion from funds allocated for state subsidies in the country’s 2018-19 budget, Oil Minister Tarek El-Molla said.
Finance Minister Mohamed Maait said that cutting fuel subsidies was necessary to help bridge the country’s budget deficit. A recent surge in crude prices has placed further pressure on Egypt’s deficit, as the country imports most of its oil.
The increases were met with angry reactions that varied from furious social media posts to calls for strikes and protests.
“What should we expect from the poor who can’t afford these rises,” said Walaa Mohamed, an engineer in Cairo. “People who have low salaries and don’t have anything else, how can they support their kids, clothing and transportation? Should they steal, beg or commit suicide?”
Mohamed El-Yamany, a Cairo resident, said that basic economics says that a government in such a tough position as Egypt’s should also work on industrial projects, fight corruption, deal with tax evasion and fight the parallel economy.
“Fix all of this first and then let’s talk about subsidy lifts,” El-Yamany said.
Another Cairo resident, who did not want to be named, said: “We can handle the price increases if it was planned gradually over five years. This sudden increase means that prices will double soon in a few months. It is really frustrating us in Eid and the solution is to have a civil strike.”
The government has also increased the price of drinking water by up to 45 percent, electricity by 26 percent, and raised metro fares 250 percent in the past few weeks. The metro fare prices rise were met with some protests.
After the 2011 uprising that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, the economy of Egypt has been in deep trouble.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi declared that Egypt’s spending to cover fuel, food and electricity is $18.6 billion a year and he plans to slash these figures.
While the minimum salary has remained the same for four years, the price of diesel has risen five-fold, cooking gas has increased by 15-fold and 92 octane gasoline by 360 percent.
In 2016, Egypt secured a three-year $12 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund by introducing austerity measures that included currency floatation, cutting subsidies and raising value-added tax.
The current fiscal year 2017/18 looks promising according to the government, which is targeting a 5.8 percent growth rate, compared to the current 5.2 percent rate, as well as lowering the budget deficit from 10.9 percent in the fiscal year 2016/17 to 8.4 percent.


Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

Updated 22 February 2019
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Truckloads of civilians leave Daesh enclave in Syria

  • The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria
  • The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital

NEAR BAGHOU: Trucks loaded with civilians left the last Daesh enclave in eastern Syria on Friday, as US-backed forces waited to inflict final defeat on the surrounded militants.
Reporters near the front line at Baghouz saw dozens of trucks driving out with civilians inside them, but it was not clear if more remained in the tiny pocket.
The village is all that remains for Daesh in the Euphrates valley region that became its final populated stronghold in Iraq and Syria after it lost the major cities of Mosul and Raqqa in 2017.
The SDF has steadily driven the militants down the Euphrates after capturing their Syrian capital, Raqqa, in 2017, but does not want to mount a final attack until all civilians are out.
The US-led coalition which supports the SDF has said Islamic State’s “most hardened fighters” remain holed up in Baghouz, close to the Iraqi frontier.
Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF’s media office, earlier told Reuters that more than 3,000 civilians were estimated to still be inside Baghouz and there would be an attempt to evacuate them on Friday.
“If we succeed in evacuating all the civilians, at any moment we will take the decision to storm Baghouz or force the terrorists to surrender,” he said.
Though the fall of Baghouz marks a milestone in the campaign against Islamic State and the wider conflict in Syria, the militant group is still seen as a major security threat.
It has steadily turned to guerrilla warfare and still holds territory in a remote, sparsely populated area west of the Euphrates River — a part of Syria otherwise controlled by the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.
The United States will leave “a small peacekeeping group” of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout, the White House said on Thursday, as President Donald Trump pulled back from a complete withdrawal.
Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 troops, saying they had defeated Daesh militants in Syria.

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