Egypt: Rationalising food subsidies

Mona El-Fiqi , Friday 1 Mar 2019

The second phase of rationalising Egypt’s database of ration-card beneficiaries will take place in March, Minister of Supplies and Internal Trade Ali Moselhi said earlier this week

Ration-card beneficiarie

There are six criteria that could lead to cardholders losing their right to subsidised food items based on consumption habits that could indicate they are not in need of subsidised items.

Families that send a child to an international school costing more than LE30,000 per year or own a car produced after 2014 will be eliminated from the system, according to the criteria. Individuals owning 10 feddans or more of agricultural land will also be removed.

If the monthly electricity consumption of a family is over 650 KW or if it has a mobile-phone bill of over LE800 per month, cardholders will no longer be eligible to stay enrolled.

However, Moselhi said that individuals who are excluded but that can prove their right to subsidised food can ask for their case to be looked at by one of the ministry’s offices.

Two years ago, the government started to update Egypt’s ration-card system in order to target it better towards alleviating the economic burdens on needy families and achieving social justice.

The revision removed dead persons from the database and people who had gone abroad, and it eliminated repeated names in the system.

The ministry then excluded households consuming more than 1,000 KW of electricity per month and having mobile-phone bills of more than LE1,000 a month from the ration-card system.

It has thus far revised the data of some 20 million cards serving around 70 million people.

Ahmed Kamal, a spokesman for the Ministry of Supplies and Internal Trade, told the media that the ministry would add adopted children to foster families’ ration-cards immediately after the elimination of non-eligible beneficiaries.

A ration-card holder is entitled to foodstuffs to the value of LE50 free of charge each month from government cooperatives in addition to five loaves of subsidised bread a day at LE0.5 per loaf.

The food-subsidy system is part of the government’s commitment to promoting social justice and is a major component of the social safety net for the poor since it provides them with affordable staples.

However, experts agree that the system’s costs can be reduced and its efficiency improved by better targeting the needy.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 28 February, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Egypt rationalising food subsidies

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