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Monday, 27 March 2017

Subsidy moochers will not be removed this year

Kramers everywhere, rejoice: You live to mooch another year: Supply Minister Ali El Moselhy has poured cold water on that subsidy fraudsters would be cut from the welfare rolls starting this year, then, telling Daily News Egypt there would be no cuts at all in FY2017-18. His reason: Times are tough and people cannot afford to go without it. This latest backpedaling of a key politically-sensitive issue follows his roll-back on an attempt to reform the bread subsidies system — and as the Ismail cabinet gears up to sell the FY2017-18 budget to the public. El Moselhy added that the ministry’s efforts will be dedicated to creating a database of those eligible for food subsidies — conspicuously omitting when or what they plan to do with the rest. He had stated on Saturday that some 19 mn ration card holders must update their personal information in 60 days.

El Moselhy confirmed to Reuters yesterday that state spending on food subsidies will reach EGP 86 bn in the FY2017-18 budget. He also added that the General Authority for Supply Commodities will continue to import wheat during this harvest collection season to build up strategic reserves. The minister also promised that the private sector will help keep prices low during Ramadan, something reportedly confirmed by Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce head Ahmed El Wakeel.

On the other side of the import-export ledger, Food Export Council chairman Hani Berzi said the council is working to increase food exports this year beyond the USD 2.4 bn shipped abroad in 2016.

And speaking of social welfare programs: The government is not planning to replace school meals with cash handouts, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail told the press yesterday, Al Shorouk reports. Ismail said the government is currently working to develop better procedures for storing, inspecting, and distributing school meals. Hundreds of students in schools across Egypt fell ill over the past several weeks due to food poisoning from the government-issued school meals. It is unclear whether El Moselhy’s plan to issue smart cards for school lunches is still on the table.

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