Top News: Egypt to Raise Petrol Price by 78 Percent as Government Cuts Subsidies

Egypt’s government raised the prices of fuel by up to 78 percent starting Saturday, following on a promise to cut subsidies that eat up nearly a quarter of the state budget.


Egyptian political parties weary of fuel price hikes
Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi said Sunday that the sudden move to increase fuel prices is a “must” to face the debt plaguing the country. Egypt’s prime minister Ibrahim Mahlab also sought to justify the politically sensitive subsidy cuts on fuel and natural gas that took effect on Saturday by saying they were a necessary part of fixing an economy hammered by three years of turmoil and will increase revenue for education and health. He also said that the increase in fuel prices will not have any impact on prices of foodstuffs, adding that merchants and owners of passenger transport companies asserted to him that the margin of raising tariff prices will be limited. The sudden increase in prices was both welcomed and criticized by Egyptian political parties. Spokesman of the leftist National Progressive Unionist Party, Nabil Zaki, decried the decision, adding that it is not in the interest of the poor who are already suffering from high food prices. The Egyptian Social Democratic Party generally supported the lifting of subsidies from fuel. The leftist Socialist Popular Alliance Party released a statement supporting economic reforms but criticizing the decision to increase the prices of natural gas and electricity to households, saying it burdened the individual rather than owners of big industries. The Nour Party said although the price increases were aimed at reducing Egypt’s sizable budget deficit, no practical mechanisms to achieving this had been announced. The party stressed the need to outline such measures as soon as possible, in order to prevent certain parties from “taking advantage” and doubling the suffering of lower-income groups. The Strong Egypt Party also issued a statement saying that the rise in fuel and electricity prices contradicts the government’s previous pledges to not cut subsidies before making efforts to improve living conditions and alleviate burdens on the poor. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, 7/6/2014]

Sisi issues series of decrees; Raises sales tax on cigarettes and alcohol
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a number of decrees over the past few days, beginning on Thursday with a decision to cap maximum wages for state employees at EGP  42,000 per month, which is 35 times the minimum wage of EGP 1,200. Sisi also issued a decree regulating the issuance of IDs for military and police personnel and the manufacturing of their uniforms. The decree introduced amendments to the penal code aimed at toughening penalties against all those “harming public and national security by forging or illegally holding military or police ID cards or making or possessing army and police uniforms.” On Saturday, he issued new amendments to the Traffic Law, ensuring harsher punishments for the law’s violations. Amendments to the law include three months to a year in prison for drunk driving, and six months in prison for driving without a license. The changes also allow the prime minister to issue a decision regulating or banning certain types of vehicles from driving in certain places at certain times. Among other decisions, he amended the real estate law, extended terms in office for tourist chamber boards, appointed Hossam Abdel Rehim the head of the Court of Cassation.  Finally, local and imported cigarettes and alcohol will cost more as of Monday, after al- Sisi decided to raise sales taxes on both. The sales tax will increase by up to 120 percent on cigarettes and will double on alcohol. [SIS, Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, Reuters, 7/7/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • SCU approves terms of nominating professors for posts of university presidents and deans | SIS
  • Egyptian Popular Current to form political party | Ahram Online
  • Popular Current: No difference between current economic policies and Mubarak’s | DNE
  • Amr Moussa: Brotherhood’s intransigence made 30 June inevitable | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s NSF: A faltering end after a successful start | Ahram Online
  • 30 June Revolution needs democracy to succeed: al-Sennawy | Ahram Online
  • ‘Hackers of Morocco’ takes over Egyptian cabinet’s Facebook page | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s Sisi to address nation on Monday to mark 10th of Ramadan | Aswat Masriya


Sisi says he wishes Al Jazeera journalists had not been tried
President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has said he wishes imprisoned Al Jazeera journalists had not been put on trial, an Egyptian daily reported on Monday, in the president’s first encouraging remarks about a case that has sparked a global outcry. In a Sunday briefing with local editors, Sisi expressed concerns over the “negative effects” the jailing had caused, according to Egypt’s privately owned daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. “The verdict had very negative effects; and we had no hand in it.” Sisi was quoted as saying during the meeting. “I wish they’d been deported right after they were arrested instead of being put on trial,” the former army chief added, in an apparent reference to Australian Peter Greste and the other three foreigners convicted in absentia in the case. Greste’s brother Andrew, who has just returned from Egypt, welcomed Sisi’s comments as “heartening.” He said he was not sure if the president’s comments would lead to a resolution, with Sisi previously saying he would not interfere in the judicial process. In related news, the Cairo Court of Appeals for Urgent Matters decreed on Saturday it lacks jurisdiction in a lawsuit demanding Qatar and Al Jazeera Mubasher Masr are labeled as supporters of terrorism. [Ahram Online, The Guardian, AP, Reuters, 7/7/2014]  

Former presidential spokesperson arrested; NASL spokesman charged with attempting to overthrow the regime
Egypt’s State Security Prosecution has charged Magdy Qorqor, spokesman for the leading pro-Morsi coalition, the National Alliance to Support Legitimacy, with a number of offenses, including attempting to overthrow the regime. Qorqor, who was arrested Monday after security forces raided his home, also faces charges of obstructing the constitution and joining a banned organization, in reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. In related news, the South Giza Court remanded former presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali into custody for 45 days pending investigation into his alleged involvement in Muslim Brotherhood activities. Prosecutors accuse him of helping Brotherhood leaders flee the country, instigating acts of violence during the events that followed 30 June and helping former Prime Minister Hisham Qandil evade judicial prosecution. Ali denied the charges. Meanwhile, 37 out of 48 defendants accused of inciting violence and blocking the Qalyoub Highway last year were given life sentences Saturday, including Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie. Another ten defendants, sentenced to death in absentia in June, had their verdicts approved by the country’s grand mufti. One defendant was given three years in jail. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, The Guardian, 7/5/2014]

Egypt’s prosecutor-general orders investigation into police rape claim
The prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat ordered on Thursday an investigation into allegations that a police officer raped an Al-Azhar university student at an Islamist protest last year. According to news reports, the student will give her statement to the prosecution on Saturday morning. The alleged victim accused a police officer of raping her in a police vehicle during her detention following the dispersal of a student protest at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in December last year. He had also ordered “unannounced inspections on prisons all over Egypt” in order to “safeguard the legal and constitutional rights of all citizens”, according to a Thursday statement from the prosecution. Teams from the prosecution carried out inspections on June 28 at five different prisons and found issues of overcrowding, no beds in cells, limited ventilation and water, limited time for exercise, and no properly equipped dining hall. Major General Abu Bakr Abdel Kareem, deputy interior minister for human rights, meanwhile said on Sunday that there are no human rights violations in Egypt’s prisons, and that there are no political prisons in the country’s jails. He also denied reports of torture and rape in the prisons. [Ahram Online, DNE, 7/7/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Egypt’s Mubarak absent from trial on health grounds | Ahram Online
  • Seven Egyptian doctors to be tried for patient’s death | Ahram Online
  • Wasat Party’s Sultan acquitted of charges of insulting judiciary | Ahram Online
  • Court resumes Morsi prison break trial | Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian activist arrested for holding anti-Sisi banner in Tahrir Square | Egypt Independent
  • Twenty-two Brotherhood members remanded into custody over involvement in Giza clashes on Friday | Egypt Independent


Egypt to raise petrol prices by 78 percent as government cuts subsidies
Egypt’s government raised the prices of fuel by up to 78 percent starting Saturday, following on a promise to cut subsidies that eat up nearly a quarter of the state budget. Egypt also slashed its natural gas subsidies to several industries increasing gas prices by 30-75 percent, as part of the broad cut back on subsidies. The price hikes for fuel, in effect as of Friday midnight, follow an increase in electricity prices that were put in effect at the start of July. Anger mounted as many citizens objected to the price increase and Cairo’s taxi and microbus drivers staged impromptu protests. In several Cairo neighborhoods roads were temporarily blocked as fleets of the city’s distinctive white taxis came to a standstill, while in the canal cities of Suez and Ismailia police used tear gas to disperse a small gathering of microbus drivers. However, Cairo Governor Mostafa Saeed said on Sunday that the fares of public buses will not increase due to the fuel subsidy cuts that went into effect midnight of Friday. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi ordered on Monday for buses owned by the army to be sent to the streets to combat high fares following the increase in fuel prices. A number of economists and analysts welcomed both the timing and the magnitude of reforms to Egypt’s bloated fuel subsidy program, amid public fears of the consequences of the comprehensive fuel price hikes such as the inflation of food prices and necessary commodities. [Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, SIS, Ahram Online, DNE, 7/4/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Ministers: Food subsidy system, market regulation to control inflation Ahram Online
  • Egypt to allow foreign companies to provide mortgage finance | DNE
  • Sisi’s economic orientation in his first month, and its influence | DNE
  • World Bank approves $500 million loan for home gas delivery | DNE
  • Planning ministry targets 14 percent investment growth, 3.2 percent economic growth for FY 2014/2015 | DNE
  • Tourism costs to increase with new fuel prices | Egypt Independent
  • Cabinet reduces allocations of butane gas subsidy by EGP 3.7 billion within next fiscal year Egypt Independent
  • Egypt has repaid $700 million to Paris Club – CBE | Amwal Al Ghad


Hundreds of writers, intellectuals endorse call to rescind Egypt’s protest law
Around 700 Egyptian writers and academics have signed an open statement demanding the abrogation of Egypt’s protest law that heavily restricts street protests and has led to the jailing of hundreds, including pro-democracy activists who were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising. The move was first announced ten days ago to reject the protest law and the “societal violence” it has caused, as well as to demand the release of those detained for what authorities deem illegal demonstrations. By early Sunday, some 700 academics and intellectuals had signed the statement, Reuters reported. Signatories to the open statement include former Minister of Culture Alaa Abdel Hady, prominent poet Zein al-Abedein Fouad, screenwriter Belal Fadl, and writer Ahdaf Soueif. It also included Sinai-based activist and writer Mosaad Abu al-Fagr and Nubian writer Hagag Adol, both of whom were members of the committee that drafted the country’s new constitution, passed by referendum in January. [Ahram Online, 7/6/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Activists mourn graffiti artist Hisham Rizk | Ahram Online
  • Giza Metro Station reopened, Sadat Station to be reopened soon | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s poor bear the brunt of Sisi’s austerity plan | Al Monitor
  • Egypt’s Copts may soon regret supporting Sisi | Al Monitor


Fayoum bomb kills four assemblers; Alexandria bomb wounds nine
A bomb detonated on Friday in Egypt’s Fayoum governorate killing four. A security source told Al-Ahram that the four people killed were assembling the device in a poultry farm. The police are trying to determine the identity of the dead, according to the source. A ministry of interior statement said that the farm is owned by a Muslim Brotherhood supporter. Meanwhile, nine people were injured in a train blast that occurred in Alexandria on Thursday. General Hany Abdel-Latif, the interior ministry’s official spokesperson, speaking at a press conference on Friday, said that the ministry is ramping up security precautions to “thwart the schemes” of the “Muslim Brotherhood” after a series of bombings rocked Egypt in the past week. He added that explosives experts at the interior ministry managed to defuse more than 150 explosive devices in different governorates and that the Egyptian police force had lost more than fifty members in violence over the past three months. On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on and killed a 23-year-old army officer Sherif Ahmed while he was driving his car near the Engineers Club in New Damietta city. Investigations are under way as it was not immediately clear if the killing was criminal or political. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, 7/4/2014]

Two die, 157 arrested in clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and security forces
Two people were killed and 24 injured during political violence on Thursday, according to a health ministry official, during protests marking the anniversary of former president Mohamed Morsi’s removal last year. A child was killed during clashes between police and pro-Morsi demonstrators in Matariya in eastern Cairo on Friday afternoon, medical sources told Ahram Online. The boy’s exact age has not been determined yet. A protester was also killed in the nearby Zaytoun district after similar clashes with police, medical sources confirmed. More than 150 Morsi supporters were arrested on Thursday, according to a security source. The official said 157 people were arrested in the capital and eight other cities and that police confiscated fireworks and gasoline bombs. [Ahram Online, DNE, 7/4/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Azouli military prison: Egypt’s dark secret | Egypt Independent
  • Egyptian army kills 17 Islamist militants in North Sinai | Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya
  • Eight extremists killed in crackdown on Sinai – sources | Aswat Masriya
  • 31 ‘terror cells’ uncovered during last month and a half: MOI | DNE


Sisi says independence for Iraq’s Kurds would be ‘catastrophic’
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday that a referendum on the independence of Iraq’s Kurdish region, which the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north, Massoud Barzani, asked the region’s parliament on Thursday to prepare, would lead to a “catastrophic” breakup of the country, which is facing an onslaught by Sunni Islamist militants. The comments from al-Sisi indicate a growing fear in the region that the division of Iraq could further empower the insurgents who have declared a “caliphate” on land seized in Iraq and neighboring Syria. “The referendum that the Kurds are asking for now is in reality no more than the start of a catastrophic division of Iraq into smaller rival states,” Egypt’s MENA news agency quoted al-Sisi as saying during a meeting with local journalists. [Reuters, 7/7/2014]

Hamas looks to Egypt to ease crisis
Hamas officials claim the wheels are in motion for an Egyptian sponsored ceasefire between the movement and Israel following days of exchanging fire of rockets and missiles. Hamas spokesman Ismail al-Ashqar said in a Friday press statement that Egypt would not accept the destruction of the Gaza Strip. He appealed to the Egyptian authorities to apply pressure on Israel “to stop its aggression,” according to state-run MENA. Al-Ashqar said Egypt could broker a ceasefire involving a prisoner swap between the two sides. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the ministry had no information regarding the brokerage of a ceasefire, but said “other agencies” could be involved. [DNE, 7/5/2014]

Also of Interest:

  • Ethiopian PM says negotiations with Egypt not easy | Egypt Independent
  • Egypt’s foreign minister meets Libyan counterpart | DNE
  • Egyptian foreign minister discusses regional issues with Moroccan counterpart | DNE
  • Sisi meets Moroccan foreign minister | DNE
  • Egypt FM to start Gulf tour | Ahram Online
  • Egypt’s envoy attends slain Palestinian teen’s funeral, warns against ‘racism’ Ahram Online
  • ‘No shame’ in Egypt using Israeli gas through British oil Company, after state’s approval: Petroleum minister | DNE
  • Egypt seeks UAE assistance, delegations visit | SPA