In Egypt, the middle class fears having to “choose between feeding their children or paying for their education.”

“It happened like a bolt of lightning and we had to cut everything. » In Egypt, between devaluation and inflation, the middle class is approaching the poverty line. Manar, a mother of two, has given up on overseas holidays and is now wondering about her future in a country embarking on painful reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “Our semblance of life has disappeared, now we only think about the price of bread or eggs”This 38-year-old housewife, who refused to give her last name, told AFP.

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With the Egyptian pound halved since March, inflation rose to 21.9% in December, according to official figures, while food prices rose 37.9%, with most goods imported. But for Steve Hanke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University (USA), according to his calculations, which take into account purchasing power and exchange rates (official and black market), inflation actually reaches 101%.

As during the brutal devaluation of 2016 – again for IMF credit – the middle class and the poorest are on the front lines. President Abdelfattah Al-Sissi already spoke about it at that time “Egypt’s toughest economic reform program” and asked the mother and her victims to hold the purse strings. But for Salma, a 41-year-old translator who prefers to testify under a pseudonym “military discipline” not enough. “My wife’s salary has lost 40% value in six months”, he says. Reducing races only allows you to win by a margin against the opponent “Monthly payments for house, car and school fees” From his 6-year-old son.

“They never knew it”

Ahmed Hicham, who has helped many families with the Abwab El Kheir association, saw a new audience coming: “Many had savings for their children or for the next. Today they dig it for health expenses or daily expenses. » Most, he says “Private sector workers”more generous salaries than the civil service, “Those earning £4,000-£6,000 a month” (€125 to €185). “They’ve never experienced this and it hurts them to come to ushe says. There is even a man who told us that he had to choose between feeding his children or paying for their education. »

Before the recent devaluation, 60% of the 104 million Egyptians were below or slightly above the poverty line, according to the World Bank. Egypt has a middle class amid notorious inequality “hard to define”, hosts Soha Abdelati of the American University in Cairo. But one thing is certain: “With the sharp increase in inflation, those who are far from the poverty line could get closer to it”the average annual salary officially reaches 2150 euros. “These are people who can no longer make ends meet but still can’t get help.” government, expert continues.

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For graduates, “There is no other way out than work abroad”, assures Salman, explanations of job offers in the Gulf or the equivalence of diplomas in Europe flourish on social networks. Those who succeed join the ranks of emigrants who send about 30 billion euros to Egypt every year. For those who cannot leave like Manar, the priority is education – the quality of education in the private sector is lower than in the public sector. “You have to pay at least £20,000 to £40,000 to make sure your child learns something. [entre 625 et 1 250 euros] every year in elementary schoolhe assures. The problem is, we don’t know if it will end there. You must be willing to sell everything… in hopes of a better future for our children. »

The world with AFP

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