“Oh God, let’s not get to the point where we have to eat chicken feet,” says a man begging next to the poultry vendors in Giza market.
Egypt faces a deepening economic crisis, a situation so acute that people are struggling to support their families.
The state’s latest dietary recommendations suggested preparing chicken feet — a protein-rich part of the bird that’s usually reserved as waste for dogs and cats.
This recommendation has sparked anger and increased criticism of the government.
Many countries are struggling with rising inflation, but at just over 30% in March, Egypt is one of the countries suffering the most.
Goods like cooking oil and cheese that used to be staples have become unaffordable luxuries for many people. Some products have doubled or tripled in price in a matter of months.
“I eat meat once a month or I don’t buy it at all. I buy chicken once a week,” says Wedad, a mother of three in her 60s, as she makes her way through the stalls. “Nowadays even an egg is sold for 5 LE [US $0.16; £0.13].”
Part of the reason Egypt is struggling is that it relies very heavily on imported food, rather than domestic agriculture, to feed its massive population of over 100 million.
Even the grain to feed the chickens is shipped.
Over 12 months last year, the Egyptian pound lost half of its value against the US dollar. When the government devalued the currency again in January, it drove up the cost of imports such as grain.
A year ago, Wedad was living comfortably on her monthly pension of 5,000 LE. She would have described herself as middle class. Now, like many other Egyptians, she is struggling to make ends meet.
Today she scraped together just enough money to buy a chicken.
“A salesman told me the price for a kilo of chicken fillets was 160 LE. Others say 175, 190, even 200,” Wedad says while shopping.
“Chicken thighs are 90 LE, but chicken bones are now being sold too – and the feet are only 20,” she adds with a sarcastic laugh.
President Adbdul Fattah al-Sisi often blames the turmoil following Egypt’s 2011 uprising and rapid population growth for his country’s current economic woes. He also points to the pandemic that followed the war in Ukraine.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine in March last year dealt a severe blow to the economy. Egypt is the second largest wheat importer in the world and the two countries were its main suppliers. When war disrupted exports, the price of wheat – and consequently bread – soared.
Previously, Russian and Ukrainian holidaymakers flocked to Egypt, causing the tourism sector to lose money as well.
Tourism, which used to generate about 5% of gross domestic product (GDP), has already been badly hit by the pandemic.
Analysts believe government missteps have made a bad situation much worse.
The power and influence of the presidency, military, security and intelligence services have grown while President Sisi has been in charge, according to Timothy Kaldas, a political economist at think tank The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
Mr Kaldas says this has happened through the expansion of regime-owned companies, such as with the military receiving government contracts for huge infrastructure projects.
As a result, private sector involvement has declined dramatically – companies that are not affiliated with the regime cannot compete. Many foreign investors have left Egypt.
Egypt’s struggles have sent it to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) four times in the past six years to ask for a bailout. Almost half of government revenue goes to paying down this debt, which accounts for 90% of GDP.
Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have bought state assets and are helping to prop up Egypt, but have also tightened their terms on further investment.
Both the West and its Gulf neighbors fear the consequences if the Middle East’s most populous country fails.
The economic hardship of the past led to unrest and contributed to the fall of the two former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi. And there are already signs that growing public anger at the economy will cause renewed unrest.
“I can’t tell you how we women regret the black day we voted for you,” an Egyptian housewife tells President Sisi in a social media video that went viral. “You made our life hell.”
She counts some loose change from her purse and asks how she is going to use it to feed her children.
Meanwhile, in her apartment, Wedad is slicing green beans and slicing tomatoes to prepare fasouliya khadra, a traditional dish for her grandchildren.
Your thoughts turn to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It may involve fasting from dawn to dusk, but typically there are lavish feasts as well.
“What am I going to do this year?” Wedad asks, shaking his head. She imagines that even chicken will soon be off the menu.
“I can hardly afford lentil soup.”
Source : news.yahoo.com