In Rare Public Criticism,Egyptian Lawmakers Slam Sisi’s Recent Price Hikes

A group of Egyptian lawmakers criticized recent fiscal reforms enacted by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government, especially subsidy cuts to fuel and electricity.

The 25-30 Alliance, a bloc of a small number of opposition MPs, demanded in a statement that Sisi cancel what it called “errant economic decisions” for which it said the lower and middle classes were suffering.

This week, Egypt announced fuel and electricity price hikes as it cut subsidies, the latest of a series of economic austerity measures backed by the International Monetary Fund as part of a $12 billion loan package to Cairo.

Gasoline prices hiked up to 50 percent under an IMF reform plan that calls for the slashing of state subsidies on some consumer products.

The price for 95 octane gasoline was increased to 7.75 Egyptian pounds a liter from 6.60 pounds; 92 octane was increased to 6.75 pounds a liter from 5 pounds and 80 octane was raised to 5.50 pounds a liter from 3.65 pounds.

Moreover, the price for a canister of gas for Egyptian households to 50 pounds from 30, while a bottle of gas for commercial purposes was raised to 100 pounds from 60.

In the same context, the price of electricity hiked by an average of 26 percent as part of austerity measures. Earlier this month, Egypt also raised the price of piped drinking water by up to 45 percent.

The fiscal reforms, which began with a steep currency devaluation in late 2016, left many Egyptians worse off.

Rare public protests erupted last month over increased fares on Cairo’s metro system, but no public demonstrations have been reported this week after fuel and electricity became more expensive.

Al-Sisi always asks the Egyptian public to bear the challenges for the country’s sake. “We must all suffer and struggle to have a stronger country in the end,” these were al-Sisi’s words during a group Iftar (breaking fast).

He also urged Egyptians to bear the new challenges of the recent subsidy cuts from the government in a raft of tough economic reforms.

He continued “We, as Egyptians, have to pay the price together, but we are still paying for some of the cheapest prices in the world provided by countries to their citizens, including in energy, fuel and commodity prices.”

The lawmakers’ statement was rare public criticism of Sisi, who critics say has presided over the worst crackdown against political opponents in Egypt’s history, with authorities arresting thousands of Islamists and hundreds of other activists since he came to power through a military coup.