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Rights groups call on IMF to link loan to Egypt to more social protection

April 5, 2022 at 11:24 am

Sign outside the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, DC, 15 April, 2020 [SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]

Seven human rights organisations have called on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to link the new loan being negotiated with Egypt to the government granting more economic and social rights to its people and strengthening judicial independence.

On 23 March, Egypt officially requested support from the IMF to help mitigate the economic fallout related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The organisations – which include Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policies – said in a statement issued yesterday that the IMF should not agree to any loan that further raises the cost of living without dramatically increasing investment in “universal social protection programs” to “ensure the right to an adequate standard of living, including food, for all”.

According to the statement, even before the pandemic, roughly one in three Egyptians – around 30 million people – lived below the poverty line, according to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), and a little another a third were considered vulnerable, according to the World Bank.

Egypt heavily subsidised imports of basic foodstuffs to ensure affordable access to food for its more than 102 million residents.  But in August 2021, even before the latest price shocks, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi announced that the decades-old bread subsidy programme, which approximately 70 million Egyptians rely on, would be reduced.

Last July, the government reduced subsidies for sunflower and soybean oil by 20 per cent, and unblended vegetable oil by 23.5 per cent because of the strain rising prices placed on the government’s budget.

READ: Sisi’s five mistakes brought the Egyptian economy to the current impasse