Egypt says it is $10bn over budget on fuel subsidies

Egypt’s cash-strapped government spends more than a fifth of its budget keeping fuel prices low

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Egypt said it would spend 70 billion pounds ($9.8 billion) more than budgeted on energy subsidies in the fiscal year ending June 30, in an indication of the crippling impact of the system on state finances.

Interim Prime Minster Ibrahim Mahlab was quoted by state media late on Saturday as saying the bill would reach 170 billion Egyptian pounds. The latest finance ministry data showed the budgeted amount for petroleum subsidies at 99.6 billion pounds.

Officials had previously put this year’s spending on energy subsidies at 130 billion pounds.

Egypt is expecting a budget deficit of 12 percent near year.

Energy prices in Egypt are among the lowest in the world, and the cash-strapped government spends more than a fifth of its budget keeping them down.

Successive governments have called for reform but none have dared push through big price rises for fear of stoking unrest.

Artificially low prices for electricity, butane and fuel at filling stations provide little incentive for Egyptians to curb consumption, despite a fuel supply crisis that frequently causes blackouts.

The prime minister said spending on education in the current fiscal year would be 26 billion Egyptian pounds, and on health 64 billion.

Egypt’s new president-elect Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said little about subsidy reform during last month’s election campaign aside from assuring voters that reform must be gradual.

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