File photo: Egypt micro-bus strike in the greater Cairo area, 3 October 2012 (Photo: Al-Ahram)
The Egyptian government’s decision to increase the price of subsidised fuel from Saturday has raised the concerns of many microbus drivers whose revenues might be affected.
The government has tried to assuage fears that the price hikes – by up to 78 percent – will not affect public transport, saying that public services such as the Cairo metro will not see fare increases.
Fares for privately run transport services, such as microbuses and taxi cabs, are expected to increase between 2 and 7 percent, according to estimates released by state-run statistics body CAPMAS on Friday.
Microbus drivers reacted with concern on Saturday, with many increasing their fares significantly, and others striking in protest.
Drivers in Suez went on strike, leaving many commuters to continue their journeys on foot, reported Al-Ahram’s Arabic website.
The governor of Cario, in an attempt to calm the mounting anger of drivers, announced an increase in fees for microbuses that travel between Cairo and other governorates.
However, drivers in Cairo did not stick to the increases set by the governor and instead further increased their tariffs.
In Sharqiya governorate, scuffles broke out between the drivers who increased their rates and groups of commuters. The Transport Workers Union announced a state of emergency after what they described as mounting complaints from workers and strikes by drivers.
Union head Gebaly El-Maraghy said that an emergency meeting will be held on Sunday to consider the matter, and called on Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab to reconsider the increase in diesel prices.
The Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) announced on Friday that it was raising petrol prices, with the price of lowest-value octane 80 fuel increasing by 78 percent and the cost of diesel rising 64 percent.
Egypt's electricity minister Mohamed Shaker also announced on Thursday new tariffs for both households and commercial sectors. According to Shaker, the new tariffs, which started this July, aim to trim the state's subsidies for the electricity sector by 67 percent over five years to reach LE9 billion – instead of the LE27.4 billion already allocated in the fiscal year 2014/15.
Mahlab explained the decision on Saturday saying that the increase in fuel and electricity prices is to “achieve social justice.”
“For over 40 years no one has touched the energy subsidies portfolio, which lead to the increase in [budget] deficit and poverty,” the prime minister said.
He added that the increase in energy prices would guarantee an extra LE22 billion for the education and health sectors.