Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ever Higher

After the protest in April, the Egyptian government announced that they would be raising the salaries of the public sector employees by 30%....everyone was very happy. Then in the last couple of days it's been announced that there are going to be price rises in the neighbourhood of 50% or more in many fairly central areas. Gasoline for cars is going up from about LE 1.4 to LE 1.9 a litre and the propane bottles for cooking are going up about 50% as well. While Egypt has been subsidising a lot for the population for years and no one can continue that forever, most of the population are utterly unaware of the fact that they've been in a protective bubble all this time. So their perception of all this is not at all friendly or understanding. There seems to be a prevailing attitude here that everything is on a "need to know" basis...and no one really needs to know. But it's time, I believe, for the Egyptian government to realise that one way or another the people of the country will learn about things and it's usually better to learn it from the government...seems to me that was the argument for sex education in the 60's too as I recall..better not to learn it in the streets? Be that as it may, a concerted effort on the part of the powers that be here to let the populace understand that at some point even government money runs out might be a good idea.

But the math here is not very good because even with the salary increases, with the gas price increase the inflation rate will still outrun the salary increases by a significant amount. The price of gas is going to be added on to all the food prices, the cost of transport of everything, right down to my hay trucks. And then I notice that they only put a 10% tax increase on cigarettes. Ok, boys, smarten up. By increasing the price of cigarettes by 100%, they are still cheaper than anywhere else in the world AND you might actually get people to stop smoking and costing the entire system tons of money in health costs. But dollars to donuts, the guys doing these figures are smokers.

copyright 2008 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani


Ashraf Al Shafaki said...

Amazing post. That's exactly how I feel. As an Egyptian myself who is living in Egypt I only got to know so late in life that the government is subsidizing gas! I guess perhaps way below 1% of the population in Egypt are aware that gas is being subsidized!

When gas prices rise, they do not see it as a normal thing and they are unaware that gas is bing subsidized in the first place, instead, they see it as an unfair action by the government which is changing and increasing the price of gas!

I second what you said about the necessity of making a national media campaign educating the Egyptian public about the fact that gas has been subsidized for all those years and still is and what exactly that means in a way that a layman can understand.

I remember yesterday speaking to my cousin, who is a fresh engineering grad specializing in chemical engineering, and he was surprised to know from me yesterday for the first time in his life (and he is Egyptian living in Egypt) that gas is being subsidized by the Egyptian government! If that is an engineering grad, so imagine the case of the rest of the people who are less educated.

They get astonished when they know the fact that gas prices in the US for instance vary from time to time and from one gas station to the other! It comes as sharp surprise to them. I guess people here in Egypt should learn that if the price of cheese will vary from time to time and from place to the other, then gas should not be any different. It's a product and its price cannot be fixed for ever, just sounds too unrealistic. Yet it seems that getting used for years and years of a system just make people expect it and become shocked if ever it changed.

Well, or perhaps they just did not increase the price of cigarettes as a 'political' move, so that people will not get very mad. Cigarettes seem to keep them calm and put a ling on their increasing anger. (By the way, I hate smoking EXTREMELY and have never smoked.)

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

Many of the people I speak to here have no idea about the extent or the depth of the subsidy program of the Egyptian government, much less its cost. I remember when I first moved here, virtually every price of every item sold was regulated by the government...often with little regard for reality.

The change from a controlled economy to a market economy is never easy.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I would like to know what living in Egypt is like especially for a foreigner. What is it like living at the countryside or at the village. What is their culture like, the people, food, standard of living. I'm asking becoz I have an egyptian boyfriend and we both would like to marry someday. If that happens, I will be living there with his family. Thanks.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

I would be happy to help you but have two suggestions. One is to read some of my previous posts on multicultural marriages. The second is to email me privately with your questions. You will find my email in my profile.