'How will we live?': Egyptian bread price hike alarms the poor

'How will we live?': Egyptian bread price hike alarms the poor
A vendor counts his money at a bread stand in the Sayeda Zeinab neighborhood of Cairo, Egypt. (AP Photo)
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Updated 07 August 2021

'How will we live?': Egyptian bread price hike alarms the poor

'How will we live?': Egyptian bread price hike alarms the poor
  • First attempt in 44 years to hike subsidized bread price
  • Roughly 30% of Egyptians live on less than $55 a month

CAIRO: Plans to raise the price of bread for the first time in 44 years have shocked Egyptians already struggling to get by in a country where state-subsidised loaves have kept the poorest basically fed since the 1960s.
In declaring this week that it was time to hike bread prices, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi aims to curb an expensive subsidy program that serves some two-thirds of Egypt’s 100 million people and helped keep political dissent at bay.
“How will we live? And how will we pay for the children of our deceased brother who live with us?” said Wafaa Bakr in Shubra El-Kheima, a dilapidated working-class district sprawling along the outskirts of Cairo.
“The price of a loaf of subsidised bread is a red line — there are widows and orphans who do not have a fixed income,” said Ahmed Saeed in Sharqia, in the Nile Delta north of Cairo.
Some 30 percent of Egyptians fall beneath the government’s poverty line, with incomes below 857 pounds ($54.73) a month. Many struggle without running water or sanitation.
The minimum monthly wage is 2,400 pounds ($153) but that is sometimes not paid in the informal sector, where roughly two-thirds of Egyptians work. Joblessness was at 7.2 percent at the end of last year, and has been chronically higher among young people.
However, economists have said for years that Egypt, the world’s biggest wheat importer and Arab world’s most populous country, must rein in subsidies to modernize its economy.
Bread subsidies now weigh ever heavier on the budget as supply jitters have driven up global wheat prices during the coronavirus pandemic.
Bread subsidies were set at nearly 45 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.9 billion), just over half of the food subsidy bill, for the fiscal year ending in June. This amounts to roughly 1.8 percent of overall state spending.
“It is time for the 5-piaster (0.32 US cent) loaf to increase in price,” El-Sisi said during televised remarks at the opening of a food production plant on Tuesday, referring to a round 90-gram loaf known as ‘eish baladi’.
El-Sisi said he hoped the news would not be poorly received and that the government was not planning a big increase. “It’s incredible to sell 20 loaves for the price of a cigarette.”
The government has already pared back subsidies on electricity and fuel, ushering in annual increases in their price since 2016 as part of market reforms linked to financing from the International Monetary Fund.
Egyptian governments have long exercised caution when it comes to the price of bread, which in Egyptian colloquial speech derives its name from the Arabic word for ‘life’.
An attempt in 1977 by then-President Anwar Sadat to increase bread prices set off deadly riots across Egypt that did not subside until the decision was rescinded.

PRICE ‘NOT SACROSANCT’
El-Sisi’s government has been gradually laying the ground for change, however, notably by rolling out cash transfer programs that better channel state subsidies to the most needy.
“There’s been a long softening-up process for this step, including the reductions in the weight of the loaf from 130g to 110g and then to 90g last August,” said David Butter, an analyst for the Middle East and North Africa at Chatham House.
“So the message that the 5p loaf is not sacrosanct has been out there for some time.”
Some calculations suggest that simply doubling the price to 10 piasters could save up to 4 billion pounds a year, he said.
Hassan Mohammadi, head of the Bakeries Division at the Grain Chamber of the Federation of Egyptian Industries, said the decision was overdue. “People eat the front and leave the back, and they use it as fodder for birds and livestock,” he said, suggesting a 100g loaf should be sold at 10 piasters.
He also suggested a 140-gram loaf should be reintroduced and sold at 20 piasters.
What this means for the poor — for whom the state-subsidised loaf, accompanied by whatever else they can afford, represents a meal — is the heart of the matter for Sheikh Ibrahim Radwan, a preacher in a mosque in the Nile Delta city of Kafr El-Sheikh north of Cairo.
“Mr. President, the poor man gets anything simple (to eat) with subsidised bread. We cannot dispense with that or afford any increase in the cost,” Radwan said, addressing El-Sisi.


UAE producing near to its maximum oil production capacity: Energy minister

UAE producing near to its maximum oil production capacity: Energy minister
Updated 27 June 2022

UAE producing near to its maximum oil production capacity: Energy minister

UAE producing near to its maximum oil production capacity: Energy minister

ABU DHABI: The UAE is producing near to its maximum oil production capacity based on its current OPEC+ production baseline, Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported on Monday.

“In light of recent media reports, I would like to clarify that the UAE is producing near to our maximum production capacity based on its current OPEC+ production baseline (3,168 mbopd) which UAE is committed by until the end of the agreement,” Suhail bin Mohammed Al-Mazrouei, Emirati Minister of Energy and Infrastructure, said.

 


NEOM awards London-based Keller major piling contract for ‘The Line’

NEOM awards London-based Keller major piling contract for ‘The Line’
Updated 27 June 2022

NEOM awards London-based Keller major piling contract for ‘The Line’

NEOM awards London-based Keller major piling contract for ‘The Line’

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s $500-billion project NEOM has awarded UK’s Keller a major piling contract for “The Line,” a 170-km megacity being developed within the Kingdom’s flagship project. 

Starting in the west at the Gulf of Aqaba and terminating at the NEOM International Airport within the upper valley region, The Line is subdivided into around 135 modules, according to a statement. 

Each module contains eight buildings founded on large diameter bored piles. 

Keller had signed an umbrella framework agreement with respect to the project, and is mobilizing for an anticipated first works order on a portion of Module 40 which has an expected value to Keller of around £50 million ($61.5 million), with the work anticipated to be completed within the next 12 months.

Listed on the London Stock Exchange, Keller is an independent geotechnical solutions specialist.


NEOM, McLaren Racing partner to drive innovation in electric motorsport

NEOM, McLaren Racing partner to drive innovation in electric motorsport
Updated 27 June 2022

NEOM, McLaren Racing partner to drive innovation in electric motorsport

NEOM, McLaren Racing partner to drive innovation in electric motorsport

RIYADH: NEOM, one of Saudi Arabia’s flagship projects, has partnered with McLaren Racing to drive innovation and talent development in electric motorsport, according to a statement. 

With the partnership, NEOM becomes the title partner of the McLaren Formula E and Extreme E racing teams, which brings the two electric race series together under the banner of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing.

“Our partnership with McLaren Racing complements NEOM’s commitment to driving sustainable solutions and tackling some of society's most pressing challenges,” CEO Nadhmi Al-Nasr said. 

“The partnership will allow us to share our collective resources and experience to yield exciting results, not only for our own organizations, but also for the broader automotive and sports industries,” he added. 

McLaren will be located within OXAGON’s Research and Innovation Campus, which will provide cutting edge facilities and collaboration spaces. 

During 2023, McLaren and NEOM will create a bespoke program to nurture engineers and students, in line with the mega project’s commitment to develop Saudi talent. 


Thailand to seek fertilizer supply from Saudi producers

Thailand to seek fertilizer supply from Saudi producers
Updated 27 June 2022

Thailand to seek fertilizer supply from Saudi producers

Thailand to seek fertilizer supply from Saudi producers

RIYADH: Thailand is planning to negotiate with Saudi Arabia for the supply of fertilizers as the country is currently facing a shortage, especially due to the high cost of imports.

The Thai Chamber of Commerce will coordinate with Saudi suppliers and a business event is to be held between three major Saudi-based fertilizer suppliers and Thai importers on June 29, Thai local media reported citing Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit.

Laksanawisit added that two Saudi suppliers were recently provided permission to sell fertilizers to Thailand.

Thailand heavily relies on imports for its fertilizers, with only 8 percent coming from domestic sources and a usage of about 5 million tons of fertilizer a year, according to the minister.

The country’s overall demand for fertilizer from Saudi Arabia is about 808,000 tons, the media report noted citing industry statistics.


US stocks — Wall Street sheds opening gains on losses in high-growth stocks

US stocks — Wall Street sheds opening gains on losses in high-growth stocks
Updated 27 June 2022

US stocks — Wall Street sheds opening gains on losses in high-growth stocks

US stocks — Wall Street sheds opening gains on losses in high-growth stocks
  • S&P 500 energy stocks among few gainers
  • Robinhood rises on Goldman Sachs upgrade
  • Indexes down: Dow 0.24 percent, S&P 0.36 percent, Nasdaq 0.68 percent

REUTERS: Wall Street’s main indexes fell after opening higher on Monday, as a rally last week on easing concerns over inflation lost steam, with high-growth stocks leading declines.

“We had a nice rally last week, so I think we’re seeing a little bit of profit taking this morning,” said Dennis Dick, a proprietary trader at Bright Trading LLC in Las Vegas.

“The stocks that were up the most last week are the ones getting hit the hardest here today.”

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index, which gained 7.5 percent last week, fell 0.7 percent to lead declines among the three major indexes.

Investors were betting on the retreat in oil prices from the three-month highs hit in June to potentially ease inflationary pressures and likely push the Federal Reserve to moderate its aggressive policy tightening.

However, data on Monday showed new orders for US-made capital goods and shipments increased solidly in May, pointing to sustained strength in business spending on equipment in the second quarter.

Oil prices also moved back into positive territory, pushing up the S&P 500 energy index by 2.2 percent, reining in expectations for inflation falling on the back of lower energy prices.

The US central bank has rapidly raised interest rates to tame 40-year-high inflation, stoking fears its actions could tip the world’s largest economy into a recession.

After the benchmark S&P 500 index earlier this month recorded a 20 percent drop from its January closing peak to confirm a bear market, investors have been trying to gauge when the market might hit its bottom.

At 10:11 a.m. ET the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 76.62 points, or 0.24 percent, at 31,424.06, the S&P 500 was down 13.94 points, or 0.36 percent, at 3,897.80 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 78.44 points, or 0.68 percent, at 11,529.19.

Shares of Robinhood Markets rose 0.6 percent after media reports said Goldman Sachs upgraded the retail broker’s stock to “neutral” from “sell.”

Goldman Sachs, however, cut rating on Coinbase Global Inc. to “sell” from “buy,” according to media reports, sending shares of the cryptocurrency exchange lower by 9.4 percent.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.03-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.31-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded one new 52-week high and 29 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 16 new highs and 41 new lows.