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Egyptian president el-Sissi boosts beer and cigarette tax

PRESIDENT Abdel Fattah el-Sissi issued a string of unpopular measures aimed at reducing Egypt’s budget deficit over the weekend.

Mr Sissi raised sales taxes on cigarettes by 50 per cent yesterday and on beer by 200 per cent.

And on Saturday fuel subsidy cuts came into force, raising the cost of fuels by up to 80 per cent.

Transport across the country was disrupted as many commuters refused to pay newly raised bus fares.

And hundreds of minibus and taxi drivers refused to carry passengers until a new fares system had been agreed, saying they would be left out of pocket.

The subsidy cuts come on top of hefty electricity price rises which took effect last week.

Mr Sissi has asked Egyptians to “make sacrifices” in order to help rebalance the economy.

Subsidies on essentials take up around a quarter of the budget in the country, where around 50 per cent of the population is below the poverty line.

Previous attempts to interfere with the subsidies have led to unrest, prompting previous governments to back down on the decision.

Overthrown Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi was refused additional help from the International Monetary Fund after rejecting its demand to cut them.

But Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said a refusal to act would be “a crime” and said the money saved on subsidies would be ploughed into education, healthcare, pensions and higher public-sector wages.

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