Egypt’s countdown to another bread uprising – Middle East Monitor

As the international economy groaned under the impact of the pandemic and a contraction in global GDP of 3.60%, Egypt celebrated a world record growth rate above 3% in both 2020 and 2021 The Egyptian government has received the expected praise from the government in Washington. based financial temples, which ignored key vulnerabilities in the Egyptian economy behind the bright numbers.

The growth pattern of the Egyptian economy has depended on increased government investment in infrastructure and real estate in recent years. The government has relied on loans to finance this expansion, racking up an unprecedented external debt of around $137 billion.

The Russian war against Ukraine following the coronavirus crisis has shattered this monetary financial maneuver. On the one hand, it has dealt a severe blow to tourism in Egypt, which generates around $13 billion in revenue a year, while putting unbearable financial pressure on the state budget due to rising prices of wheat and petroleum.

READ: Arab countries urge citizens to contact embassies in Ukraine

Egypt is a net importer of crude oil and petroleum derivatives, with more than 120 million barrels of crude imported each year. Over the past few years, the government has budgeted the price of oil at around $61 a barrel. With the world price per barrel over $120 and forecasts that it could reach over $150, the Egyptian government should double its allocations in the budget.

Another hit comes from wheat and food prices. Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, with 11.6 million tonnes imported into the country in 2021. Egyptian Supply Minister Ali Moselhi said the government had assumed that the price of wheat was $255 a ton, but is now paying $350. Unfortunately, the problem does not stop here since 86% of Egyptian imports come from the two countries at war, Russia and Ukraine. As a result, Egypt has to look for new sources which should be more expensive due to the better quality offered and shipping costs.

The blow came as the government had already burdened the people with continuous price hikes, freezing wages and withdrawing subsidies. The government had nearly eliminated electricity, water and fuel subsidies and reduced food subsidies in value and number of beneficiaries. He was also preparing to raise the price of subsidized bran bread (baladi) after cutting his weight.

The final stage has been a social taboo for the government since 1977, when a decision by President Anwar Sadat to raise food prices sent people onto the streets in one of the most violent social protests. of modern Egyptian history. The “bread uprising”, as it was called, was not exclusive to Egypt, it hit most Arab states during the 1980s with the introduction of the free market under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund . Tunisia and Morocco experienced bread uprisings in 1984, Algeria in 1988 and Jordan in 1996.

Egypt is now expected to experience another. When dissident Egyptian businessman Mohamed Ali sparked an uprising in 2019 after exposing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s corrupt financial conduct, the protests were fueled by widespread outrage that has built up since the launch economic reforms in 2015.

Nevertheless, in all the cases indicated above, the political and social forces were ready to mobilize the society, to lead the protests and to forge its political demands. In Egypt in 1977, there were student and worker cells of the new left and rising Islamist movements. Activists from this period led Egypt’s political and cultural scene for decades to come. In Tunisia 1984, the uprising was a declaration of the birth of the Ennahda Movement. In Algeria in 1988, the uprising preludes the rise of the Salvation Front, the Islamic alliance that almost ruled Algeria after the 1991 elections until a military coup prevented it. .

Al-Sisi has been working since his military coup in 2013 to eliminate potential rivals. After smashing the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist movements between 2013 and 2015, he turned to secular forces, including those who had allied with him against Islamists. As a result, Egypt has become a police state where there is no political voice other than that of the ruler.

Security organs cracked down on apolitical civil society groups to silence human rights defenders and critics of the state.

Under such circumstances, widespread outrage has built up but remained suppressed in the absence of an organized force that could mobilize and bring people together in an effective political movement against the combination of authoritarianism and incompetence. economic.

This time it could be the poor rising up in a bread uprising rather than a political movement.

READ: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine endangers Middle East food supply

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