100,000 electronic subsidy cards to be distributed in Egypt following bread crisis

Mahmoud Aziz , Ayat Al Tawy , Wednesday 8 Mar 2017

Cairo Bakery
A worker at a Cairo bakery fills his oven with bread loaves (Photo: Reuters)

An official source in Egypt's Ministry of Supply told Ahram Online on Wednesday that the bread crisis that struck some of the country's governorates on Tuesday is now over, as the ministry is distributing 100,000 electronic subsidy cards to citizens in eight governorates.

Earlier this week, the supply ministry reduced the quota of bread given to bakers nationwide for holders of old subsidy cards in a move aimed to curb misuse and profiteering by bakery owners.

The decision caused protests in several governorates on Tuesday as many citizens without the newer electronic cards – first introduced three years ago – were unable to obtain their share of bread.

Egypt introduced the electronic smart card system in 2014 for citizens to receive subsidised food, though many continue to use old paper cards that are not registered in the new system.

The ministry source said that many of the citizens who had applied to obtain the new smart cards have not yet received them, saying the process can take up to years in many cases.

An unsubsidised loaf of flatbread costs EGP 0.60, while the subsidised bread sells for as little as 0.05 a loaf.

A range of left-leaning political parties, including the Socialist Popular Alliance and Karama (Dignity) parties, denounced the decision, blaming the government's "random policies" for causing widespread public anger.

The Egyptian Democratic Party urged the cabinet to resign, accusing it of failing to manage the country's resources and being the main source of the economic crisis.

MP Haitham El-Hariry, a member of the left-leaning 25-30 parliamentary coalition, described the decision as "careless," calling on the Ministry of Interior to immediately release any citizen arrested in protests against the decision on Tuesday.

Hundreds of Egyptians took to the streets on Tuesday to protest the lack of subsidised bread in several governorates, including the capital Cairo and second largest city Alexandria.

The ministry reduced on Sunday the amount of bread allocated for paper card holders to 500 loaves a day, down from 1,000 to 4,000 allocated for each bakery depending on beneficiaries in the area. Holders of newer electronic smart cards were not affected by the reduction.

Minister of Supply Ali Moselhy said on Tuesday at a press conference that the decision was to combat "manipulation" of state-subsidised bread by bakers, stressing that the daily quota of five loaves per day for each individual remains untouched.

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