No chicken, no cafes: Egyptians scrimp as prices leap


Money had already been tight as food and electricity bills climbed for weeks. So Ashraf Mahrous, a 45-year-old civil servant, warned his wife, "Black days are ahead," when Egypt floated its pound and hiked fuel prices this month. Mahrous is now looking for a side job. Rising inflation has forced him to stop eating chicken and borrow cash from friends to make ends meet. He also gave up his regular evening cafe visits and slashed his son's allowance.

"We can no longer survive on my salary," Mahrous, a father of two, said. "The situation is very, very, very difficult."

Struggling to cope with price increases, some Egyptians are scrimping on meals, buying used clothes or considering moving their children to cheaper schools. Even the better off are feeling the pinch. And more price jumps are likely amid a slew of economic decisions designed to revive a battered economy, lure back investors and end a dollar crunch. Egypt recently took what many economists say is the necessary step of floating its pound and cutting fuel subsidies as it sealed a $12 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund. The Egyptian pound quickly lost about half its value, plunging to around 18 to the dollar, in a country heavily dependent on imports ranging from food items to raw materials. With salaries remaining largely the same, nearly everyone in the already deeply impoverished country effectively had a sudden, large pay cut.

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