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Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Protests break out across Egypt following El Moselhy’s cuts to bread point system

A wave of protests broke out in Alexandria, Kafr El Sheikh, Minya, Assiut, Giza, and Fayoum yesterday in opposition to Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy’s decision last week to cut down on the number of subsidized loaves of bread bakeries can sell per day through the golden card system to 500 from 3,000, Al Mal reports. Police moved to disperse the protests in Alexandria, where demonstrators cut off the tramway and blocked roads.

For the unacquainted with the complexities of the bread subsidies system, some background: Egyptians eligible for bread subsidies who travel for work in a different governorate than where they reside officially are issued temporary cards that allow them to obtain subsidized bread from bakeries. These bakeries are issued golden cards that track the distribution of bread to temporary card holders. It is these temporary card holders causing all the fuss.

El Moselhy appeared to backtrack on the decision, announcing in a press conference that the cap will be lifted only in Alexandria and Giza — the two most affected governorates by the cap. Despite reassuring temporary card holders that they would receive their allotted five loaves, El Moselhy defended the caps, saying that the entire golden card system needed to be reformed. The system had made it hard to monitor distribution of bread and left the program vulnerable to fraud. The caps, he added, were necessary to “right a wrong” and ensure subsidies were not squandered. You can view the whole press conference here (watch, runtime 36:53).

It is hard to tell what impact these protests will have over El Moselhy’s move to reform the bread subsidies system as a whole, which he says is self-defeating and has been costing the state an additional EGP 500 mn per month. He has been considering cutting the daily allotment of subsidies bread to three loaves from five.

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