Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi today said that new subsidy cards for basic goods will cover no more than two people, warning newlyweds they should no longer expect the state to feed their children, Reuters reports.
Al-Sisi's comments come after he shocked Egyptians in August by saying it was time to increase the price of bread, revisiting the issue for the first time since 1977 when then-President Anwar Sadat reversed a price rise in the face of riots.
The country's sprawling subsidy programme provides items like bread, rice, and sugar to more than 60 million Egyptians. Some 30 per cent of the population falls beneath the government's poverty line. Many struggles without running water or sanitation.
Subsidy cards are issued by the Ministry of Supply, and beneficiaries have previously been able to routinely add individuals if their family grew, for example, due to the birth of a child.
"There is no way we will be issuing cards to people who are getting married. If you are getting married and you expect the state to give you a ration card, how can this be? You cannot afford [living costs]," Al-Sisi said at the inauguration of development projects in Upper Egypt.
"This culture has formed in people's minds, and it is only in our country that people expect to buy things for less than their value, and get services for less than their value, and to have children and [expect] someone else to feed them," he added.
Al-Sisi said the decision would not affect the holders of cards issued in the past, but that any new card would only cover two individuals. He gave no indication when the change would take effect.
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 modernise its economy.
Al-Sisi and his government have made repeated interventions on family planning, having launched a "Two is Enough" campaign aiming to challenge the tradition of large families in rural Egypt. The country's 100 millionth person was recorded in February 2020.