Egypt to Raise Subsidized Bread Price by 300%, PM Says

A young boy delivers freshly-baked bread in the al-Darb al-Ahmar district in the old quarters of Cairo on May 28, 2024. (AFP)
A young boy delivers freshly-baked bread in the al-Darb al-Ahmar district in the old quarters of Cairo on May 28, 2024. (AFP)
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Egypt to Raise Subsidized Bread Price by 300%, PM Says

A young boy delivers freshly-baked bread in the al-Darb al-Ahmar district in the old quarters of Cairo on May 28, 2024. (AFP)
A young boy delivers freshly-baked bread in the al-Darb al-Ahmar district in the old quarters of Cairo on May 28, 2024. (AFP)

Egypt, often the world's biggest wheat importer, will raise the price of heavily subsidized bread for the first time in decades, a sensitive decision that has been delayed for years.

The price of subsidized bread will jump 300% to 20 piasters ($0.0042) from 5 piasters starting in June, Prime Minster Mostafa Madbouly said at a press conference on Wednesday.

About two-thirds of Egypt's population benefit from a program that gives 5 loaves of round bread daily for 5 piasters a loaf.

The handout is a lifeline to the poor, but is often criticized as wasteful and a strain on the budget.

The announcement comes after Egypt allowed a sharp devaluation of its currency in March and shifted to a flexible exchange rate system. Inflation surged to a record last summer and has eased a touch since then.

"We understand fully that (the price rise) is a thorny issue and many governments (in the past) tried to avoid moving on it," Madbouly said.

"But we see today the size of the subsidy bill on the Egyptian state and so we had to start to move as little as possible to ensure the sustainability of service."

Madbouly has said the government is studying moving towards conditional cash subsidies for bread.

After two years of chronic foreign currency shortages, Egypt has secured a windfall of funding since late February from the IMF, the UAE and other entities.

The new raised price represents 16% of the cost of making the bread, which has risen to 125 piasters from 115 last year, Supply Minister Ali Moselhy told the same press conference.

The finance ministry in March said it would allocate around 125 billion Egyptian pounds ($2.66 billion) for bread subsidies in its 2024/2025 state budget and around 147 billion pounds for petroleum product subsidies.

Egypt imported about 10.88 million metric tons of wheat in 2023, up 14.7% from 9.48 million tons in 2022.

Moselhy told Reuters that the decision will not impact the quantities of wheat the state imports.



Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The surge in visitors to Lebanon during Eid al-Adha and high demand for summer concert bookings are boosting hopes for a revival in tourism.

This sector is crucial for reigniting positive economic growth after about nine months of challenging conditions due to the Gaza war and subsequent border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon.

Contrary to earlier fears this month of possible Israeli strikes inside Lebanon, Ali Hamieh, caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transport, reported a daily average of 14,000 arrivals at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, with numbers on the rise.

Jean Abboud, President of the Association of Travel and Tourism Agents, confirmed that despite initial concerns, booking rates have bounced back to 90-95% after Israeli threats of a mid-month strike. Most arrivals are Lebanese expatriates and foreign workers.

Before the summer season’s anticipated surge, Lebanon saw a 5.37% decrease in arrivals, with air traffic down by 9.34% and passenger numbers at Beirut International Airport dropping by 6.84% in the first five months of this year, totaling 2.29 million travelers compared to 2.46 million last year.

These declines were linked to the border clashes.

Lebanon’s tourism sector, generating over $5 billion annually in recent years, ranks as the country’s second most vital revenue stream after expatriate remittances, which officially approach $7 billion.

Together, they contribute more than half of Lebanon’s national income, which has dropped sharply from about $55 billion to under $22 billion due to the ongoing financial and currency crises that erupted five years ago.

Despite significant losses during peak tourism seasons like Christmas, Easter, and Eid al-Fitr, a report by Bank Audi indicated that Lebanon’s tourism revenues lost over $1 billion in the first six months of the Gaza conflict, driven by a 24% drop in tourist arrivals.

On average, tourists spend around $3,000 during their stay in Lebanon.