• "Egypt's corrupt bread policies leave a bitter taste" - by Daanish Faruqi in Egypt's Daily Star

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 • "Egypt's corrupt bread policies leave a bitter taste" - by Daanish Faruqi in Egypt's Daily Star

Posted by youngmarxist at 2008-04-29 03:03 AM
Interesting article called Egypt's corrupt bread policies leave a bitter taste which says that food problems in Egypt have a lot to do with corruption and not just world markets:

The de rigueur analysis of the issue has gone something like this: the rising costs of oil —necessary to distribute foodstuffs throughout the country — coupled with a tripling of wheat prices since last summer, have spiked bread prices in Egypt to unaffordable levels.  This in turn has put a monstrous strain on Egypt's subsidized bread market, to the point that the government-subsidized bread supply can no longer keep up with the nation's burgeoning demand.  And voila, global market forces take their toll on the Egyptian marketplace, which — bolstered by popular support for worker's rights in Mahalla —culminates in mass protest.  Nothing President Mubarak or the NDP could have foreseen, such uncontrollable global economic forces, right? 

But hold on a second.  This is Egypt, a country that produces enough wheat to satisfy its bread requirements for at least six months.  Moreover, despite the rising global costs of wheat, Egypt has more than enough hard cash on hand to satisfy the rest of its wheat needs by purchasing it on the open market. Something else must be at stake here. There is. 

The heart of the matter lies in the gross mismanagement of Egypt's subsidy program.  I am by no means trying to diminish the severity of rising food prices globally, but the whip of the market alone in no way explains the Egyptian government's inefficient subsidy system, or the rampant corruption therein.  Run almost by caprice, Egypt's subsidized bread program fails to monitor eligibility for subsidies, but instead sells subsidized flour to government bakeries, who then purport to use said flour to make cheap country — or baladi — bread, at a very marginal profit. 

With no serious government management of the process beyond that point, the system is highly vulnerable to corruption, with struggling bakers selling subsidized flour on the black market for heftier profits — more than enough to buy off the underpaid inspectors appointed by the government to monitor subsidized bread prices. Consequently, affordable bread for the truly needy becomes scarcer, and with no serious monitoring efforts by the state, the process becomes cyclical, eventually culminating in a bona fide crisis. 

Government mismanagement of simple provisioning, not uncontrollable market dynamics, led to this current state of affairs — bread queues at government bakeries, while flour meant to feed the poor is sold on the black market to make expensive pastries.  And with nearly half of Egyptians living below the poverty line of $2 a day, mismanagement of their bread supply was enough to catalyze a truly national movement, despite its being suppressed by security forces.


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