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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 October 2018

Egypt raises gasoline prices by up to 50% as part of reforms

The third price hike since Nov 2016 comes as Egypt implements an IMF programme

A petrol station attendant fuels a car at a gas station in Cairo. The Egyptian government increased the price of gasoline by at least 42.8 per cent as part of an economic reform programme. Khaled Elfiqi / EPA
A petrol station attendant fuels a car at a gas station in Cairo. The Egyptian government increased the price of gasoline by at least 42.8 per cent as part of an economic reform programme. Khaled Elfiqi / EPA

Egypt has raised gasoline prices by up to 50 per cent, the oil ministry said on Saturday, under an International Monetary Fund reform plan calling for tough austerity measures that have made life harder for ordinary Egyptians.

Oil Minister Tarek El Molla said the price rises will help Egypt save up to 50 billion pounds in allocations for state subsidies in the 2018-19 state budget.

The price hike, the third since Egypt floated the pound currency in November 2016, is expected to pile more pressure on Egyptian consumers struggling to make ends meet amid high unemployment and rising prices.

The oil ministry said the price for 95 octane gasoline had been increased to 7.75 Egyptian pounds a litre from 6.60 pounds; 92 octane had been raised to 6.75 pounds a litre from 5 pounds and 80 octane had gone up to 5.50 pounds a litre from 3.65 pounds.

The ministry also raised the price for a canister of gas for Egyptian households to 50 pounds from 30, while a bottle of gas for commercial purposes was raised to 100 pounds from 60.

The government, under new Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly, also announced on Saturday a hike in taxi fares by 10 to 20 per cent and said new prices will be posted at taxi stands.

Halfway into a three-year, $12 billion IMF loan programme signed in late 2016 which is tied to the austerity measures, Egypt hopes painful reforms such as tax hikes and subsidy cuts will lure back foreign investors and kickstart an economy that crashed after its 2011 Arab Spring uprising.

IMF First Deputy Managing Director David Lipton told government officials in May that Egypt will have to deepen reforms and better encourage private sector growth if it wants to cash in on a wave of global expansion.

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The IMF-backed austerity programme carries risks for President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, a former army general who was elected for a second term in March after a landslide win in a vote against a single challenger.

Mr Al Sisi, who came to power after the army ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi following mass protests against his rule, has overseen a crackdown on vocal critics he sees as trying to derail his reforms.

Mass protests in Jordan earlier this month over government plans to hike taxes had raised speculation among some Egyptians that Cairo may delay the planned fuel price increases, which were ordered by outgoing Prime Minister Sherif Ismail before Mr Al Sisi replaced him last week.

But Mr Al Sisi last week decided to push ahead with the plan, saying the austerity programme was necessary to put the country back on track after years of turbulence that began in 2011 when mass protests forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down.

The latest price hikes were announced as Western-allied Egypt, the most populous country in the Arab World, celebrated the Muslim Eid al-Fitr, a public holiday which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

News of the price hikes were circulated widely on social media but there were no immediate reports of any protests.

Egypt last week announced new cuts to electricity subsidies, raising prices by an average of 26 percent from July.

A hike in metro ticket prices in May sparked brief but rare protests by dozens of disgruntled commuters in some Cairo metro stations.

Oil Minister Molla said the price rise will cut the funds allocated for fuel subsidies to 89 billion pounds from 139 billion pounds.

"Moving fuel prices will help reduce petroleum products consumption by about 5 percent," Molla said.