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Egypt is facing one of the worst periods of inflation in years, as ordinary Egyptians pay for it after the cost of basic meals doubled.
According to a report by the Washington Post, affordable meals have become more expensive as food prices have risen, affecting the average citizen.
Egyptians are going through a difficult economic situation in light of the high cost of living, and the Egyptian pound has lost more than half of its value since the beginning of this year against the US dollar, after the central bank of Egypt recently decided to adopt a flexible exchange rate, according to “AFP”.
Compared to this time last year, food and beverage prices have increased by 30.9 percent.
Egyptians are trying to cope with rising costs by forgoing luxuries – from avoiding dining out to postponing weddings – in the hope that the cost of living will soon fall.
Even the owners of well-known restaurants are affected by the crisis and price increases, as is the case with Youssef Zaki, the owner of the restaurant “Abu Tariq”, specializing in the famous Koshary dish.
Despite a dwindling customer base, fortunately for Zaki, koshary remains a staple of the Egyptian diet. And to avoid raising prices on the grounds that customers can’t afford it, Abu Tariq has reduced his quantity a bit.
And with dozens of employees between the kitchen and delivery crews, Zaki pays workers the same wages with a lower profit margin.
Sitting on a plastic chair on the street outside, Zaki said, customers who prefer “a big plate of koshari can now buy a small plate.” “Instead of three meals, people can only eat one or two meals,” he added.
Egypt was particularly affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine after the aftermath of the war caused the economic crisis in Cairo to worsen. Foreign investors pulled billions of dollars out of the country in the weeks after the invasion, causing turmoil in the economy.
Egypt also imports more wheat than any other country – mostly from Russia and Ukraine, where wheat and oil prices have started to rise, while tourist numbers have fallen again due to a long-standing reliance on Russian and Ukrainian visitors.
Egyptian political economist Wael Gamal said that blaming only the war in Ukraine is not correct.
He added that years of borrowing and investing in mega-projects had made Egypt particularly vulnerable.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi defended these projects after making infrastructure development a hallmark of his presidency.
After months of negotiations, Egypt announced in December that it would receive a $3 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund – including $347 million that will be disbursed immediately.
This is the fourth time that the International Monetary Fund has helped Egypt in the past six years.
Gamal said Egypt’s economic problems “are deepening every time it turns to the International Monetary Fund and takes out more loans to cover old loans with new ones.”
In the Zamalek district, Ahmed Ramadan, 27, works at a koshary restaurant, serving 700 orders a day to his customers who are students and working-class employees.
Compared to others in Imbaba, Ramadan considers himself lucky because he has a steady job and can walk to Koshary Restaurant in Zamalek every day without worrying about high transportation costs.
For his neighbors, “the situation has gotten worse,” he says. “They have to survive and eat only vegetables and rice. What can I do?”
Ramadan said that until recently he could buy a ton of rice for about 8,000 Egyptian pounds, indicating that the price has now risen to 18,000 pounds.
The price of his stock of pasta also jumped by £6,000. Even the plastic boxes and bags used to wrap meals are more expensive than before. But customers still buy. Ramadan said, “People should eat.”
The annual rate of core inflation rose to 21.5 percent in November, compared with 19 percent in October, according to the Central Bank of Egypt.
The poverty rate in Egypt, according to official data, is 30 percent of the total population of about 104 million people.
In the nearby settlement of Agouza, Medhat Muhammad, 47, works in a restaurant that sells falafel and beans. Muhammad said customers had started ditching the sandwiches, which he was selling for three and a half pounds, before the price rose by one pound.
“The war in Ukraine caused the price of flour and oil to rise,” he added. When that went up, everything else went up.”
Some poorer customers buy falafel pieces instead of sandwiches and put them on bread they get through a government subsidy program, just to save a few pounds.
Even if the restaurant doubles its prices, the restaurant’s manager, Sayed al-Amir, said, “We won’t make much money.”
He noted that many other stores are closing, but he will do anything to avoid layoffs.
He said “those workers” have three to four children, noting that they all have other jobs delivering orders or working at other restaurants. “It’s amazing how people live,” he continued.