The latest data show that reforms made by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who pledged economic stability during his election campaign to get the unemployment rate down to 10 percent, are bearing fruit.
This rate dropped to 10.6 percent in the first quarter of 2018. Egyptians have had to deal with rising costs amid the reform efforts, however, particularly after the state floated the Egyptian pound last year, prompting it to slump in value, coupled with the sales tax and cuts to electricity and energy subsidies in 2017. More pain for consumers lies ahead with further cuts to subsidies planned this year.
Core inflation, which strips out volatile items like food, is declining, however, and stood at 11.1 percent in May, the Egyptian central bank said in late June as it announced it would keep its main interest rate at 17.75 percent.
High interest rates help ease inflation but make it harder to promote spending and economic growth. Nasr said Egypt’s main objective was to raise living standards and would do so through infrastructure projects and job creation.
“We’re targeting youth, we’re targeting women because they are the ones that suffer more from unemployment rates, so we’re putting forward a support package for small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups are our priority and we’re providing a package of financing and technical assistance,” she added.
Al-Sisi won a second term in office in the March election with little opposition. He first came to power in 2014 having led a military coup against former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, linked to the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood group. The coup came against a backdrop of protests calling for Morsi’s resignation with protestors disliking Morsi’s agenda and authoritarianism.
Despite reforms efforts while in power and the support of Washington, there has been widespread criticism of Al-Sisi’s crackdown, arrests and imprisonment of his political opponents, repressive attitudes toward the media and accusations of human rights violations.
Human Rights Watch and others said the recent election lacked the minimum requirements to be called “free and fair” too. With the Arab Spring of 2011, overthrow of Morsi and military coup, Egyptian voters want stability.