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A loaf of bread and the moaning of the Egyptians

June 7, 2024 at 2:02 pm

An Egyptian man sells bread in Cairo on 8 December 2017 [MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images]

From the beginning of this month, Egypt witnessed an increase in the price of a loaf of bread, rising from five piasters to twenty piasters, suddenly tripling the price. This rise is considered a bold step supported by force of arms and the intimidation of prisons and detention centres, especially because during the rule of President Sadat in the 1970s, the price of a loaf of bread was raised and there was an uprising, with the people revolting against this decision on 18 and 19 January, 1977. This uprising was known as the “bread riots”. In the face of popular pressure, the government at the time backed down from its decision. However, the Egypt of yesterday is not the Egypt of today.

Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly’s justifications for raising the price of a loaf of bread were that this was being done for the first time in more than thirty years, and that a loaf of bread costs the State 1.5 Egyptian pounds, noting that the State bears 12 billion Egyptian pounds to subsidise it. In this context, the Prime Minister did not forget to mention the population increase, fuel subsidies and cash support, adding that the savings from subsidies directed at loaves of bread will be used to contribute to the focus and intensification of building more schools, as well as health facilities, as well as to accelerate the completion of many service and development projects, including sanitation and other projects; the goal of rationalisation is not to provide more savings for the State, but rather to achieve optimal utilisation of resources.

READ: Egypt to raise subsidised bread prices 300%

These statements from the Prime Minister reflect the injustice imposed on the Egyptian citizen, especially those with limited income, under weak pretexts and justifications that are easily disproved. It would have been better to first advise the leadership itself, after they had built presidential palaces, bought planes for pleasure and bought unnecessary planes and weapons to satisfy the West. They implemented superficial projects that do not achieve anything useful, and privatised and sold assets hysterically for extremely low prices, in a manner that harms the interests of the country, the people and the national security, which no longer exists. They burdened the State with debts it cannot handle. It would have been better if they had directed that money to support health and education, build productive projects and improve the lives of citizens.

Madbouly’s statement regarding the increased bread prices is that this is the first price increase in over 30 years. This may be true on the outside, but on the inside, the Prime Minister forgot or neglected the fact that the weight of a loaf of bread has gradually gone down from 150 grams to 90 grams. Moreover, according to official data in the State’s budget for the current fiscal year (2023/2024), the subsidy for a loaf of bread did not even reach one pound.

This step of increasing the price of bread will increase the suffering of Egyptians and cause more destitution and poverty among the Egyptian people. It is an early warning of the dangers of moving in this direction, as an explosion may occur at any moment, especially since this price increase will not be the last, and it will be followed by a rise in fuel and energy prices, in order to remove all subsidies in accordance with the IMF’s requests.

Heading towards monetary support and its limitation burns the citizens with the fire of inflation that Egyptians are being subject to in their everyday life. Also, blaming every government failure on over-population just superficialises matters and is developmental blindness. This is because an increase in the population cannot be considered over-population if it is invested well in education, qualification and training in a way that increases its productivity and directs it towards production that meets the domestic needs, enhances exports and guides imports.

A common proverb in Egypt is “No one dies of hunger”, as it contains the treasures of the Earth, as Prophet Yusef said. Today, its people do not have a morsel of bread due to their deteriorating incomes, and they have no life without it. At the same time, the citizens have barely anything left from the chants they chanted in the January 2013 revolution, “Bread, freedom and social justice”. Today, bread was lost the day freedom was lost, and the people remained silent over killing the people, confiscating money and accepting injustice. They have nothing left of the social justice given the State’s submission to the IMF’s prescription, protected by the sword of brutal force.

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This article appeared in Arabic in Arabi21 on 5 June, 2024.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.