Egypt's Sisi pledges measures to ease strain on poor

Wed May 17, 2017 2:26pm GMT

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi sought to ease the concerns of Egyptians grappling with rising prices ahead of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by pledging a raft of economic measures including tax breaks.

Sisi, in an interview published in state newspaper Al-Ahram on Wednesday, said his government would introduce tax cuts and increase subsidised food in the coming weeks to help Egyptians struggling amid the highest inflation rates in decades.

Affordable food is an explosive political issue in Egypt where tens of millions of people live below the poverty line and hunger and economic discontent have helped unseat two presidents in recent years.

During Ramadan, Islam's holy month which begins next week when believers abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk, Egyptian families can struggle to make ends meet.

Sisi said Egypt would double quantities of subsidised food to mitigate the effects of economic reforms and "benefit middle class and low-income groups".

It was not immediately clear if the measure would be extended beyond the holy month.

Egypt has struggled to revive its economy following the 2011 revolution, which drove away tourists and foreign investors, both major sources of hard currency.

The pound has halved in value since the central bank floated the currency in November which helped Egypt secure a $12 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As part of reforms agreed with the IMF that authorities say are necessary to create jobs, Egypt has introduced a value-added tax and cut subsidies to curb its budget deficit, placing financial strain on families.   Continued...

An Egyptian woman shops at a vegetable market in Cairo, Egypt June 15, 2016. Picture taken June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
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