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Egyptians losing patience with government as economy deteriorates

EGYPTIANS on Sunday showed a cartoon on social media showing a drowning Egyptian, with his hand protruding from the depths, waving for help.

Experts said in Cairo that with the next strips showing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi diving in, taking the drowning man’s watch and turning away is an indication that the Egyptians are losing patience with Sisi as economy deteriorates.

They said the cartoon captured the mood of desperation and anger among Egyptians clobbered by tax rises, soaring food price inflation and cuts in state subsidies.

“Some fear a repeat of the mass street protests that drove Sisi’s two immediate predecessors from power.

“Core inflation is at seven-year-highs, near 14 per cent, as a foreign exchange shortage and a hike in customs duties bite hard in a country that imports everything from sugar to luxury cars,’’ they said.

An official said on condition of anonymity that government raised electricity prices by 25-40 per cent in August and is phasing in a 13 per cent value-added tax approved by parliament in the same month.

He said as part of the reforms aimed at clinching a 12 billion dollars IMF loan needed to plug its gaping budget deficit, the government is also expected to cut petrol subsidies and devalue the Egyptian pound.

The official said this would prompt a further cycle of inflation in Egypt, where tens of millions rely on state-subsidised bread.

Gamal Darwish, a civil servant, as he queued to buy subsidised sugar in Cairo said the prices are rising daily, not monthly.

He warned that the situation could push people to do bad things, as it could slip out of hand and the government would not be able to control it.

“If the poorest cannot get enough to eat they will steal.

“If someone has children to feed, what will he do,’’ he said.

The government has tried to win public support for the austerity measures with a billboard campaign and media blitz and has also sought to expand social security schemes to shield the poorest from the effects of the rising prices.