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For struggling Egyptians, devaluation promises price pain

EGYPT’S move to devalue the pound was met with frustration online and on the streets, with Egyptians complaining about everything from the cost of diapers to the price of chicken after years of struggling with low wages to afford them.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi let the Egyptian pound plunge in value in a bid to restore economic stability to the most populous Arab state with the help of billions of dollars of Gulf investment inflows.

However, some Egyptians wonder whether such high-profile moves will provide relief for them after years of hardships.

“This will magnify the suffering of citizens,” said Eman Hussein, a doctor. “They should have held off on this step for a while because if the government doesn’t make dollars available then we will find ourselves back in the same spot.”

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Egypt’s central bank said it had hiked interest rates by 600 basis points and would let the pound trade freely.

The bank said its actions were “backed by the steadfast support of multilateral and bilateral partners” and “sufficient funding has been secured to avail foreign exchange liquidity”.

Egypt has in the past said it would move to a more flexible exchange rate, only to return to closely managing the currency whenever the pound weakened.

This time, it may be betting that hard currency inflows from investment projects including a $35 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates signed in late February will prevent a freefall.

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The announcement on Feb. 23 that Emirati sovereign fund ADQ will invest $35 billion within two months in the development of a new city on Egypt’s north coast and other projects eased pressure on the Egyptian pound on the black market.

The Egyptian government says $10 billion of that money has already been transferred.

“We got $35 billion — can you please reduce the price of diapers?,” said a post on X.

Also on Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a much-awaited $8 billion dollar loan to Egypt, increased from $3 billion previously.

SISI SAYS PROJECTS WILL PROVIDE JOBS

Egyptians have endured economic hardships for years while Sisi spent billions of dollars on a new capital city, bridges and other infrastructure.

The flagship project is a $58 billion New Administrative Capital rising in the desert east of Cairo, a site Sisi said would mark the birth of a new republic.

Many have seen living standards slide and struggled with steep price increases for everyday goods and services. An estimated 60% of the 106 million population is beneath or close to the poverty line. Prices for essential goods have soared.

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As Egyptians endured hardships, Sisi told people to bear the economic pain and that his mega-projects would provide jobs.

“Don’t we eat? We eat. Won’t we drink? We drink, and everything is functioning. Things are expensive and some things are not available. So what?” said Sisi, who took power after leading the overthrow of his democratically elected predecessor.

READ:  Egypt's Sisi cruises towards victory in subdued election

While the UAE money flowing in may produce relief for Egypt, some people are sceptical.

“Even if the devaluation will have a positive impact on the economy, it will still negatively impact citizens. Another devaluation and further increases in prices of all goods while wages are low,” said Hussein

Breaded chicken, popular among the middle class, was a major indicator of market stability. The rise in prices alarmed Egyptians.

It generated jokes on X shortly after the economic measures were announced. “The dollar amounted to 50 pounds at banks and the world is in ruins. But his mother asks, will the price of breaded chicken fall or rise?” someone wrote.

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By FARAH SAAFAN

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