Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Friday, January 18, 2008

Egypt’s bread subsidy system plagued by corruption

An article by Michael Slackman in Thursday’s New York Times uses the issue of subsidized bread to spotlight Egypt’s corruption problems.

“It is hard to make ends meet in Egypt where about 45 percent of the population survives on just $2 a day,” Slackman writes. “That is one reason trying to buy subsidized bread can be a fierce affair, with fists and elbows flying, men shoving and little children dodging blows to get up to the counter.”

He continues, “Egypt is a state where corruption is widely viewed as systemic, which is also why the crowd gets aggressive trying to buy up the subsidized bread. Cheap state bread can be resold, often for double the original price.”

Slackman later adds, “Much of what ails Egypt seems to converge in the story of subsidized bread. It speaks to a state that is in many ways stuck in the past, struggling to pull itself into the future, unable, or unwilling, to conquer corruption or even to persuade people to care about one another.”

“The most corrupt sector in the country is the provisions sector,” said a government inspector who asked not be identified for fear of punishment. The article says that his job is “to go to bakeries to ensure they are actually using the cheap government flour to produce cheap bread that is sold at the proper price.”

“The inspector explained why the system was so open to abuse,” Slackman writes. “The government sells bakeries 25-pound bags of flour for 8 Egyptian pounds, the equivalent of about $1.50. The bakeries are then supposed to sell the flatbread at the subsidized rate, which gives them a profit of about $10 from each sack. Or the baker can simply sell the flour on the black market for $15 a bag.”

For the full article, click here.

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