Egypt president defends austerity measures

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CAIRO – Egypt’s President Abdel-Fatah al-Sisi has defended his government’s latest austerity measures aimed at rebuilding the country’s ailing economy, amid a wave of arrests since his re-election.

The government has raised the price of electricity and piped drinking water as part of an economic reform program designed to qualify for a three-year $12 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, which Egypt secured in 2016.

Sisi said late Tuesday in televised comments that the government spends a total subsidy bill of 330 billion Egyptian pounds, $18.6 billion, annually.

He said: “We have to pay the price together.”

The tough austerity measures have hit poor and middle-class Egyptians especially hard.

Egypt has intensified its crackdown on dissent since Sisi’s re-election in the March vote in which he faced no serious challengers.