Egyptians are protesting recent cuts in bread subsidies: Here's why

Published March 9th, 2017 - 10:01 GMT
Dozens of Egyptians take part in demonstration in front of a government office in downtown Alexandria on March 7, 2017, against the decision of the supply ministry to limit the distribution of subsidised bread to holders of new digital cards. [AFP]
Dozens of Egyptians take part in demonstration in front of a government office in downtown Alexandria on March 7, 2017, against the decision of the supply ministry to limit the distribution of subsidised bread to holders of new digital cards. [AFP]

The Egyptian government has slashed subsidies for bread and sparked outrage across the country. People have taken to the streets to protest the abrupt change, which came with little warning; while the government was providing each bakery a maximum of 4000 loaves of bread a day, it now intends to give only 500 loaves—a mere eighth of the original number, according to an article in The Guardian.

For people in developed nations, many of whom adhere to a low-to-no-carb diet, it might seem strange or unrelatable that people would be so up in arms about losing access to affordable bread. That’s where social media can help provide some important context and give insight into Egyptians’ perspectives on the matter.

On Twitter, people have been using the arabic hashtag انتفاضة_التموين#, which translates to, ‘The uprising against Supply,’ to express their outrage at the government move. By ‘supply,’ they are referencing the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade. This ministry is a government body in Egypt responsible for ensuring that the major subsidized goods essential to life for the poor—rice, sugar, gas for cooking, and, most importantly flour—are readily available. They are also responsible for providing flour to bakeries. 

This tweet explains that the protests were not politically driven as they have been in the past, but were fueled by basic needs:

Another user expressed what the policy change means for many:

In this excerpt, someone has claimed that people returning to Egypt from out of the country have shifted what they bring back to loved ones:

 

 The Egyptian diaspora, when returning from the Aqaba port in Jordan, are buying bread before boarding the boat back to Egypt. Bread has become the most valuable gift that an Egyptian could bring back to his family.

Here’s a visual of some of the protesters in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city that sits on the coast of the Mediterranean.

This tweet provides important context:

Lastly, this user provides invaluable insight as to what bread means in Egyptian socity:

In Egypt, the minimum wage for a permanent government worker—whose work is stable and guaranteed (not the case for many Egyptian families) is around $67 dollars a month, according to Egypt’s Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (as quoted by Trading Economics). In addition, data from The World Bank indicates that 25.2 million of Egypt’s 91.5 million people are living under the poverty line, unable to meet their basic needs.

LM

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