Ahead of Eid Al Adha, the Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi asked his citizens for sacrifice. He was taking aim at Egypt's lavish energy subsidies, which distort the economy, undermine public finances and drain money from productive public investment.
Mr Morsi talked about targeting energy subsidies more effectively, noted that those who could afford high-octane petrol should pay the full price, and claimed 85 per cent success in tackling fuel shortages.
Hisham Kandil, the prime minister, has pointed out that energy subsidies benefit the wealthiest fifth of the population: those who can afford cars and air conditioners.
Over the summer, Egyptians struggled with blackouts and a lack of diesel and cooking gas. Mr Kandil plans to cut handouts by a third to tackle a budget deficit that has reached 11 per cent.
Higher prices for energy would reduce waste, smuggling, congestion and pollution. Egypt struggles to meet its domestic gas needs, while revenues from exports are drying up. Abundant resources in deep offshore areas, and in shale formations onshore, are not economic at current regulated prices.
Amid the culture wars and hand-wringing over Islamist influence, the importance of economic revival for the success of the new Arab regimes has not been emphasised enough.
Egypt cannot compete in the modern globalised economy without raising the productivity and skills of its people. Literacy is a pathetic 72 per cent (in Jordan, a slightly poorer country, it is 93 per cent). Subsidies swallow up almost twice as much as the education budget.
In some ways, the revolution makes radical reform of subsidies possible. The industrial mafia that surrounded the former president Hosni Mubarak, and whose factories benefited from cheap gas and electricity, has been swept away. And a government with a democratic mandate should be better placed to request short-term sacrifices from people for the greater good.
The Muslim Brotherhood has many wealthy businessmen in its upper echelons, and has aspired to the Turkish model of socially conservative capitalism. It has so far espoused mainstream economic policies. But it is also mindful of its grassroots network, including long-established charitable activities, and the danger of being outflanked among the poor by Egypt's Salafist parties.
Subsidies also present a tempting opportunity for any government to direct largesse to its supporters. The articulate and influential middle class naturally wish to defend their disproportionate benefits, while the poor fear the loss of cheap bread and cooking gas.
This leads to the risk of Egypt's falling into populist vacillation, as has happened in Latin America, Nigeria, India and elsewhere, where subsidy reform is derailed by repeated popular protests. So far, the Egyptian authorities have tried to muddle through, with rationing, curfews on shops, campaigns against "hoarding" and smuggling, and selective price increases to big industries.
There have been proposals to replace subsidies with cash handouts. To save money, these could be targeted on low-income households - but identifying the deserving will tax the country's clunky bureaucracy and invite corruption.
Nonetheless there are several good models of systematic reform. In 2010, Iran eliminated energy subsidies and brought in cash transfers. There was an extensive period of publicity and preparation, the benefit was made universal, and special bank accounts were opened for all citizens where the cash was automatically deposited.
Brazil's Bolsa Família social welfare programme pays funds to low income families whose children are in school. To reduce corruption, the name of every recipient is available online. Mexico has a similar programme. To succeed, the system must reduce corruption, be able to spend savings effectively on public services, and compensate the poorest.
Mr Morsi and Mr Kandil should justify the voters' faith with a deft and bold reform: eliminate the subsidies that are draining Egypt's economic lifeblood.
Robin Mills is the head of consulting at Manaar Energy, and the author of The Myth of the Oil Crisis and Capturing Carbon