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Arabic press review: Egyptian officials 'on high alert' amid dramatic price hikes

Meanwhile, government institutions in Kuwait witness mass resignations as people take advantage of retirement packages, and Syria has bread crisis linked to shortage of fuel
Egyptians walk past a poster depicting US dollars and other currencies outside an exchange office in Cairo, Egypt, on 12 January 2023 (AP)

Egypt's food crisis

Egypt's presidency has issued instructions to governors and ministers to "urgently address the crisis of the shortage of basic foodstuffs" for fear of a new wave of protests in the country, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper reported.

The report comes after a sharp drop in the Egyptian pound, which fell nearly 4 percent against the US dollar last week. The currency lost nearly half of its value last year after Cairo agreed to painful austerity measures to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund. 

The devaluation has doubled the price of basic food like bread, meat, poultry, and dairy, which had already been high due to successive currency devaluations since an initial IMF deal in 2016. 

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The presidential directives are based on reports warning of the consequences of "a state of popular discontent", according to government sources that spoke to the online paper.

Parliamentary and media sources said the ministers and governors are seeking to find urgent solutions, albeit temporary, to the successive economic and living crises, while some of them complain of two major obstacles.

The first is the lack of adequate coordination between the different ministries and institutions in the state, and the second is related to the interference of some officials from the security agencies, according to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

"Under the directives of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the armed forces continued to mitigate the living burdens of citizens and distributed large quantities of food baskets in various governorates of the republic to counter the economic repercussions,” said a statement issued by the armed forces last Monday.

Mass resignations in Kuwait's public sector

Government institutions in Kuwait have witnessed a wave of resignations over the past few weeks, with people taking advantage of a generous retirement provision that was due to expire on 31 December, according to a report published by The New Khalij website, which specialises in covering Gulf news.

The largest mass resignation was on the last working day of 2022, including by senior officials in various ministries and government agencies. 

Sources told the paper a large number of the senior officials were keen to resign before the beginning of 2023 to take advantage of retirement benefits, estimated to be 80 percent of the last monthly salary received. The resignations came after reports of the government's intention to cancel the decision that stipulates this benefit.

"These resignations, which were estimated at hundreds in various ministries, agencies and government institutions, are considered a precedent that did not occur in the history of Kuwaiti governments to this extent,” according to the report.

Syria's bread crisis

Many bakeries in government-controlled areas in Syria were forced to suspend their work due to their inability to secure the fuel needed for the bread industry, according to a report published by Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper.

The crisis comes after fuel prices surged to record levels, followed by a severe shortage in supplies.

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The crisis has escalated in the past few days after the Kurdish YPG, which controls most of the oil fields in eastern Syria, stopped supplying the government-controlled areas with oil derivatives, the London-based paper reported.

The shortage of bread, which is considered a staple for Syrians, has caused huge crowds in some bakeries which operate one or two days a week. Syrian citizens have been experiencing successive economic crises for ten years.

The suspension of work for many bakeries has led to a shortage of bread and a significant price increase. A package containing seven loaves reached 3,000 Syrian pounds (half a dollar), while its price doubled on the black market.

*Arabic press review is a digest of news reports not independently verified as accurate by Middle East Eye.

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