Saturday,21 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1195, (1-7 May 2014)
Saturday,21 July, 2018
Issue 1195, (1-7 May 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Struggling to make ends meet

Israa and Samer, a middle-income couple, explain to Sherine Abdel-Razek their daily battle to provide a decent life for their family

Al-Ahram Weekly

Israa Thabet, a 32-year-old English teacher and the mother of two children, spends her last hour before going to bed each night calculating the day’s expenses and planning for those of the next day.

In most cases, this leads to sleepless nights of additions, subtractions and decisions to sacrifice more items considered luxuries in the light of the family’s limited resources.

Thabet, an English teacher in a primary school, and her trilingual husband who lost his job as a tour guide in the aftermath of the revolution and currently gives private lessons, make around LE6,000 a month.

“Out of this we put aside LE1,500 each month for paying the kids’ tuition fees. We pay LE9,000 for each a year and this is after the 35 per cent discount I get because I work as a teacher in the school,” Thabet said.

When told that the government plans to increase the prices of electricity, gas and petrol, she exclaimed “all in one go?”
The increase in electricity prices is Thabet’s main fear, since she has one air-conditioner in her house and her electricity bill in the summer months is close to LE200.

Thabet’s home consumption in winter is 320 kilowatt per hour, but this increases to 400 in summer, which would put her in the high consumption bracket. Experts believe that the increase in electricity prices will affect those consuming more than 350 kilowatts daily.

“I can’t afford even a 10 or 20 per cent increase in the electricity bill,” Thabet said.

Her piped gas bill never exceeds LE12, and even if this rises to LE30 due to the planned hikes in gas tariffs she is not particularly worried. “But I am afraid of the effect of this on other prices, as traders will add the increased cost of energy products to the already high prices of commodities and services,” she said.

Thabet said that the increases in prices were impossible to cope with. The price of dairy products, essential for the growth of her eight and six-year-old children, has increased by 50 per cent.

The least expensive bottled milk is LE8 per kg, and the price of powdered milk jumped from LE8 to LE12 three months ago. According to Thabet, the cost of a kg of meat at the butchers close to her home has increased gradually since last June from LE64 to reach LE70 last week.

Filling the lunch box for her kids every morning costs her at least LE12 per day. The price of the eggs, cheese and cold cuts used to stuff their sandwiches has increased compared even to the previous semester.

“For snacks, I give them either a pack of juice or sliced fruits, and this alone costs LE4-5 per day,” she said.

Officially, Egypt’s inflation rate has slowed down in recent months to around nine per cent compared to the 12.9 per cent it reached at the end of last year. Nonetheless, the local subsidies reform, together with the increase in international prices, will likely push up prices, according to experts.

According to a report by the London-based research centre Capital Economics, global food prices have risen on the back of fears about disruptions to supplies from Ukraine. Wheat prices have increased by almost 30 per cent since the end of January.

Given that food accounts for 40 per cent of the Egyptian CPI basket, the mixture of commodities according to which the inflation rate is calculated, Capital Economics expected this would add as much as 1.5 per cent to the inflation rate in the Thabet’s husband, Samer Mustafa, a graduate from the faculty of tourism and a speaker of English, Italian and French, had to sell his car when he left his job in late 2011. “We couldn’t afford the expenses of the two cars, so now we both use one,” he said.

Living in Maadi and working in centres in Heliopolis and Giza, Mustafa pays LE250 for fuel every month. “If the rumours about increasing the octane price by LE1 per litre are true, this means an extra LE100 per month,” he said. He quit smoking in January to save this LE100.

Mustafa also fears that the increase in petrol prices will lead to increases in the price of services. “I am sure that the bus for the children’s school will increase as well,” he said.

The school stopped sending buses at the end of last school year when the petrol crisis erupted due to the increased prices.

“I belong to a middle-class family that was keen to send its kids to private language schools and enroll them in different sport teams in the social clubs. I want the same thing for my kids, but this is sometimes unaffordable,” he said.

Last week, the school sent a letter to Mustafa to tell him it needed LE600 to put his children in a summer activity including a performance in the opera for his daughter. “Judy would cry if I told her I could not afford to pay, but I don’t know how to pay for it,” he said.

“If the government wants to have fair pricing of energy by reducing subsidies, I need fair treatment as well. I pay taxes, and neither me nor my kids benefit from most of the public services. I use my private car, go to private hospitals, and send my kids to private schools,” Mustafa said.second half of the year, pushing it into double digits.

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