Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Sale Season Prompts Question on Egypt’s Poverty | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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An employee carries money at an exchange office in downtown Cairo. Reuters/Amr Dalsh

Cairo- Since the early hours of Friday, streets of Cairo and other big cities witnessed an unusual traffic as shoppers headed to malls, which had announced massive discounts on the occasion of “White Friday” (a designation recently adopted in some Arabic countries) or “Black Friday” (international designation).

Cars queued for long hours in front of the malls’ gates to pass inspection, then tried to find a place to park; people had also to wait inside the malls for personal inspection.

Asharq Al-Awsat saw thousands of visitors at a mall in west Cairo who waited for discounts reaching up to 50%.
For people who are used to traveling to Europe and the U.S., the scene was familiar and resembled the holiday season’s crowds in European capitals, or when citizens of these countries try to have a version of the new released iPhone before others. But in Egypt, the scene seemed bizarre especially after less than a month from the government’s decision to float the Egyptian pound, which dropped purchasing power.

Economic experts say as a result of the devaluation of the currency price rates duplicated in no time.

Atef Yaacoub, head of the Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) said that price rates have witnessed a random and unjustified increase for the first time in the Egyptian market; he noted that reductions offered by some stores on “Black Friday” were fake.

However, away from the “commercial cheat”, stores witnessed massive crowds amid important questions: with the exceptional rush on commodities which cannot be afforded by Egyptians with regular incomes, can we still consider Egypt a poor county?

Observer see that the answer is not that simple and an important factor should be taken into consideration before making any judgment.

Photos and footage of people rushing to shop were taken in some areas with a rich population and that this scene does not represent 92 million Egyptian citizens; according to the latest statistics, this social class represents only 7% of the population given that the majority of the people in Egypt have not previously heard of “Black” or “White Friday.”

It is worth noting that the Egyptian government launched expanded studies and discussions to determine the cap that could be recognized as the “poverty line” and people who deserve support of basic goods; media leaks said the government will set a cap of EGP1500 (around USD88) to receive support; discussions are still ongoing to determine this number seeking to offer support only for eligible people.

As the first step, the government started to review its support lists and eliminated around one million citizens who were registered many times or those who had left the country; the second step will be to eliminate 10 million ineligible people seeing to provide only 40% of citizen with the governmental support.