Widespread protests erupt in Egypt over bread subsidies

Peaceful Assembly

With a slump in tourism and a destabilising internal security situation, Egypt is facing severe economic troubles. As the state moves to implement austerity measures after securing an IMF loan bailout in November 2016, the government reportedly plans to reduce the state-subsidised supply of bread from 4,000 to 500 loaves per bakery. Citizens have expressed deep concern over the potential decrease in supply, which has been seen as an indicator of larger financial problems facing the nation. The government's decision is likely to severely affect the millions of Egyptians living below the poverty line. 

To express their anger and frustration, thousands took to the streets from Alexandria to Giza on 7th March 2017, declaring: "We want bread!" The protesters reportedly blocked roads and the numbers of people grew to surround government buildings. Though no incidents of violence were observed, police reportedly fired shots in the air to disperse protesters.

In an interview with the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, expert Mohamed Adam reiterated the importance of civil society in mediating this and other crises in Egypt:

"The Egyptian state needs to stop looking for short-term and unsustainable solutions to its economic crisis; instead there should be a long-term strategy to handle the ongoing crisis and its consequences. The state also needs to urgently seek political reform to reactivate local councils and should bring back the role of civil society, currently facing an unprecedented crackdown, as a mediator between the society and the state. The ongoing economic crisis has and will continue to force the state to make decisions that directly affect people’s daily activities and it cannot afford to do so without the help of the civil society..."