Government cuts subsidized products and clamps down on recipients
CAIRO: Millions of people in low and limited-income brackets depend on what ration cards (subsidized food supplies vouchers offered by the government) provide them to cover a small part of their basic needs. The Ministry of Social Affairs has recently announced that in order to acquire a ration card a citizen has to submit a poverty certificate. The deadline for receiving applications is Oct. 10, 2006, and many poverty-struck citizens are dissatisfied with the requested certificate and the products excluded from the subsidized list.
The needy and those with no fixed income can submit applications to social affairs bureaus located in the districts where they live. Social investigation will be conducted to decide whether the applicant deserves the card or not and the poverty certificate will be issued accordingly, says Darwish Galal, deputy minister of social affairs and head of the supplies and monitoring unit.
For their part, the concerned security bodies will thoroughly investigate the credibility of the information provided by both the social affairs bureaus and the applicants themselves.
It is very humiliating, even for a poor person like me, to go through such procedures just to get my simplest rights as a human being, not even as an Egyptian citizen, says Ahmed Hammouda, a security guard.
Every citizen s share of the subsidized supplies are: one kilogram of sugar for LE 1, half a kilogram of oil for 50 piasters, a tea packet for 54 piasters, one kilogram of rice for LE 1, two extra kilograms of sugar for LE 1.50 each and two kilograms of oil for LE 1.50 each.
On the other hand, flour, beans, lentils, soap and washing powder have been excluded from the list of subsidized goods. I depend on subsidized products in my life. The cancellation of many items, especially lentils and beans, will affect my life and the food supplies of my five children to a great extent, laments Ahmed Gad El-Karim, doorman of a residential building in the Imbaba district.
Based on a recent UN report, prepared in cooperation with the Ministry of Planning, the rich-poor divide in Egypt is quite significant, especially in rural areas. In the new development classification, Egypt ranks 119 out of 173 countries. The UN defines those living below the poverty line – subsisting on less than $2 per day – as “poor.
According to World Bank statistics in 2005, 35 million Egyptian citizens – about 52 percent of the Egyptian population – are below the poverty line. Then comes the government to exclude basic goods from the subsidized supplies, disagrees one economist on condition of anonymity.
The Egyptian citizen s status is continuously deteriorating due to changes in exchange rates, low Egyptian pound value, on-going increase of prices as well as the dramatic deduction in bank interest rates. This, in turn, caused a gap between income and prices of basic supplies, he adds.