Demonstrations swept across Egypt yesterday, Tuesday, after the government’s Supply Ministry slashed the amount of subsidised bread available to the poor.
Working class areas in Egyptian cities such as of Cairo, Alexandria, Minya and Desouk saw hundreds of angry protesters take to the streets.
New regulations mean that each bakery is allowed to distribute only 500 loaves of subsidised bread. Previously they had distributed between 1,000 and 4,000.
Each person can receive only three loaves, whereas previously they could get five.
People now also have to show plastic smart cards to prove they are eligible, rather than paper documents. Many of the poorest do not have the smart cards.
Social media reports suggested police had fired warning shots over the heads of demonstrators in the Imbaba area of Cairo.
Saed, a worker at a government supplies office, told the Middle East Eye news website his office was stormed by protesters chanting against the government.
“There were about 100 men and women. I cannot blame them. We face the same problems at our houses,” he said.
Hundreds protested in Alexandria’s Attarin neighborhood, and dozens in Manshiya, cutting off the tramway. Other protesters in Assafra train station in Alexandria also blocked the tracks.
Cheap bread is the difference between starving or eating for millions of desperately poor people.
The Egyptian Revolutionary Socialists said, “The hundreds and thousands who took part in protests today are setting an example of how to challenge the regime.
“The regime steals their daily bread in the interests of protecting the profits and dividends of big business. Its security apparatus stops anyone speaking out against the policies of impoverishment that the regime has imposed, thinking it will not face any popular resistance.”
The government introduced a Value Added Tax last September, then cut fuel subsidies in November. The devaluation of the Egyptian pound meant it lost almost half its former value.
But there is international backing for Egypt’s neoliberalism.
Egypt’s minister of foreign affairs, Sameh Shoukry, met European Union foreign ministers on Monday to explain “the nature of the reform process undertook by Egypt”.
A few days before the bread protests, former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak was cleared of any wrongdoing in relation to the murder of hundreds of protesters during the 2011 revolution.
There is no nationally coordinated resistance to Sisi, and repression prevents large-scale protests. But there are still some strikes and outbursts of protest like the one we have seen this week.
The lid will not stay on major revolt indefinitely.