Amr Emam is a Cairo-based journalist. He has contributed to the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and the UN news site IRIN.

  • Egypt’s subsidy system badly needs reform, On: Sun, 26 Mar 2017

  • Egypt moves from electricity deficit to sufficiency, On: Sun, 19 Mar 2017

  • Prospect of Russian tourist return brings hope to Egypt’s resorts, On: Sun, 19 Feb 2017

  • Egypt boosts navy as part of Red Sea strategy , On: Sun, 29 Jan 2017

  • Anger in Egypt as Red Sea islands’ handover looms, On: Sun, 15 Jan 2017

  • Middle East Christians remain hopeful for the future despite ISIS violence in 2016, On: Sun, 15 Jan 2017

  • Failed tactics of ISIS in Cairo church attack, On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Egyptians pin hopes on new measures to reverse economic slump, On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Egypt in fear for tourist season after latest bombings, On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • Egypt’s economic reform paying off but at cost for the poor, On: Sun, 04 Dec 2016

  • Egypt strives for food security, On: Sun, 20 Nov 2016

  • Egyptian minister wants country to be ‘investment magnet’, On: Sun, 13 Nov 2016

  • Palestinians should wake up from ‘peace dreams’, Shaath says, On: Sun, 23 Oct 2016

  • Remnants of bygone times, Egypt’s synagogues suffer neglect, On: Sun, 23 Oct 2016

  • Arab-American actor Rami Malek wins Emmy Award, On: Sun, 25 Sep 2016

  • Egypt invests in tourism promotion, hoping to change perceptions, On: Sun, 18 Sep 2016

  • Egypt braces for austerity as it finalises IMF loan, On: Sun, 21 Aug 2016

  • Saudi-Egypt bridge plan could cause friction with Israel, On: Sun, 17 Apr 2016

  • Egypt turns to Africa in fight against terror , On: Fri, 08 Apr 2016

  • Egypt watches as Hamas tries to mend fences , On: Fri, 25 Mar 2016

  • Foreign demand for Arabic rising in Cairo, On: Fri, 11 Mar 2016

  • Egypt’s Heikal leaves behind rich legacy, controversy, On: Fri, 26 Feb 2016

  • Egyptian girls continue to suffer FGM, On: Fri, 19 Feb 2016

  • As jihadism takes root in Libya, is Egyptian intervention far behind?, On: Fri, 05 Feb 2016

  • On fifth anniversary, a revolution no more in Egypt, On: Fri, 29 Jan 2016

  • Egypt’s Nubians struggle to save their language, On: Fri, 29 Jan 2016

  • Once-popular Egyptian crafts are dying out, On: Fri, 22 Jan 2016

  • Libyans in Egypt losing hope of returning home, On: Fri, 22 Jan 2016

  • Bumpy road ahead of Egypt’s new parliament speaker , On: Fri, 15 Jan 2016

  • New courts in Egypt to fight violence against women , On: Fri, 15 Jan 2016

  • Natural gas finds may alter Mediterranean geopolitics, On: Fri, 08 Jan 2016

  • Egypt’s Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas, On: Fri, 08 Jan 2016

  • Egypt’s unending challenges, On: Fri, 01 Jan 2016

  • Egypt-Russia ties set to grow despite plane crash, On: Fri, 18 Dec 2015

  • Egypt’s Sisi declares war on price hikes, On: Fri, 18 Dec 2015

  • Desperately seeking tourists, Egypt opens airport museum , On: Fri, 11 Dec 2015

  • Egypt, Sudan tensions stocked by border incident, On: Fri, 04 Dec 2015

  • Egyptian experts said ditch Nile dam talks, go to court, On: Fri, 27 Nov 2015

  • Higher voter turnout in second phase of Egyptian elections , On: Fri, 27 Nov 2015

  • Egypt’s subsidy system badly needs reform

    Flawed system. An Egyptian worker sells subsidised food commodities at a government-run supermarket in Cairo. (Reutres)

    2017/03/26 Issue: 99 Page: 20

    Cairo - Angry reaction to a recent move by Egypt’s Supply minister to reform the subsidised bread distri­bution system under­scores the challenges the country faces in addressing problems in its food subsidy system, experts said.

    Ali Moselhi, who took over the Supply portfolio in February, came under pressure in March be­cause he sought to prevent bakers from amassing millions of dollars through a loophole in the subsi­dised bread distribution system.

    Bakers use government-supplied electronic cards to register the distribution of millions of loaves of bread on the Supply Ministry’s computer system, even as they al­legedly distribute far fewer loaves than the number registered on the system. The bakers are paid for the registered number of loaves although, the ministry said, this number is far from accurate.

    “The bakers get rich by steal­ing the subsidies allocated to the poor,” Supply Ministry spokesman Mohamed Suweid said. “We want to put an end to this.”

    Corruption in the bread subsidy system costs Egypt $200,000 every day, the Supply Ministry said.

    This, experts said, was minor when it came to corruption within Egypt’s overall subsidy system. Egypt spends $1.6 billion a year to subsidise bread and $2.7 billion to subsidise food every year. Food, energy, water and electricity sub­sidies combined cost $12 billion an­nually.

    “The sorry thing still is that al­most 74% of these subsidies go to the rich, whereas the very poor get the remaining 26%,” said Med­hat Nafei, an economics profes­sor from Cairo University, quoting independent studies. “Those who most deserve the subsidies do not get them.”

    A look at the categories of citi­zens receiving the subsidies sup­ports Nafei’s view. About 70 million Egyptians are registered in the food subsidy system. They include — apart from the country’s 6 million civil servants and the millions of poor self-employed citizens work­ing in workshops or selling cheap imported wares on the streets — university professors, army gener­als, medical doctors, journalists, engineers and moneyed traders.

    “Do these people really need the subsidies?” Nafei asked. “Of course they don’t.”

    Egypt spent $3.4 billion to sub­sidise energy in 2016 but those who ended up benefiting from the subsidies were the approximately 9 million Egyptians who own cars and the rich who use subsidised gas at home for cooking. That same year, the government spent $1.6 billion to subsidise electricity but most of these subsidies went to rich Egyptians.

    Experts said the issue was not only about millions of citizens un­deservedly benefiting from the subsidies but about cartels that guarantee the continuity of corrup­tion within the subsidy system.

    Moselhi’s plan to eradicate cor­ruption within the electronic sub­sidised bread cards system was to limit the number of loaves at bak­ers’ disposal to actual needs in each district.

    Bakers resisted the move by spreading rumours that the min­ister wanted to cut subsidies. This led to thousands of poor Egyptians taking to the streets to accuse Mo­selhi of planning to make their lives tougher and the minister back­pedal.

    “The minister was, in essence, trying to give tough time only to those who enrich from the subsidy system at the expense of the poor,” Suweid said. “This, in fact, showed us that the fight against corruption would not be easy because those benefiting from corrupt systems would do everything possible to re­sist reform.”

    Nevertheless, reforming the sub­sidy system is indispensable for keeping the lid on poverty, experts said.

    The case for Egypt’s poor (27.8% of the population of 92 million) worsens because economic and social welfare programmes benefit the rich, not the poor, experts said.

    “Reforming the subsidy system and ending corruption are matters of utmost urgency for the stability of this country,” said Medhat al- Sherif, a member of parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee. “This system only benefits sub­sidy cartels and those who do not deserve it. As for the poor, they get nothing but the crumbs.”

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Deputy Editor-in-Chief: Dalal Saoud

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editors: Jonathan Hemming and Richard Pretorius

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    Opinion Section Editor: Claude Salhani

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Levant Section Editor: Jamal J. Halaby

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Senior Correspondents:

    Mahmud el-Shafey (London)

    Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobeidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Rasha Elass - Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor

    Subscription & Advertising:

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262

    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    66 Hammersmith Road

    London W14 8UD, UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved